Alaska Communications' today unveiled a satellite-based broadband solution that will enable students, teachers and staff at rural Kuspuk School District to connect at more than double their previous speed when the new school year begins.
The Anchorage-based service provider demonstrated the satellite system's ability to share live video feed and file transfers at up to 25Mbit/s, compared with the existing connection speed of up to 10Mbit/s, said Bill Bishop, senior vice president of business markets at the service provider Alaska Communications.
The service provider became a satellite network operator in late 2017 when it began leasing transponder space in the C-band from Eutelsat Americas, a subsidiary of Eutelsat Communications. Instead of simply reselling space on the satellite, this more partner-like arrangement gives Alaska Communications more control over the design and pricing of subscribers' solution, Bishop said.
"Entering the market as a satellite provider instead of a reseller gives us more flexibility and control over our product, which we will use to provide more value for customers," Bishop said at the time. "We can offer our customers competitive pricing and value added services we'll manage end to end. As a statewide provider, it's important to us to serve customers in remote areas, including the North Slope and Arctic regions."
This speed increase matches the goal of Alaska's five-year economic development plan for 2017-2022. The Broadband Task Force, updated last year to reflect new technologies and broadband capabilities, seeks to increase access to 25Mbit/s speeds within Alaska by 20%, the report said.
"As a district, we have an obligation to provide our students with every possible educational tool to prepare them for an ever-changing workforce," said Bernie Grieve, superintendent of Kuspuk SD, in a statement. "High-quality instruction with access to high-quality internet service is essential to helping students be better prepared to meet future workforce demands."
Previously, the nine schools and main office making up Kuspuk SD received speeds of up to 10Mbit/s via a microwave network, part of a system that traveled about 550 miles and encompassed schools and healthcare clinics, according to a letter incumbent DRS Technologies wrote to Alaska Legislative Aide Brittany Hutchison during the Request for Information period.
"The schools that we serve have been able to take advantage of the Broadband Assistance Grant to affordably get to 10Mbps of Internet capacity for their students," Vickie Kelly, Program and Business Development manager, Alaska, at DRS wrote. "Should the Legislature pass funding to increase the connectivity to 25Mbps, DRS does have the ability to provide that amount of capacity to each of the sites in those school districts."
The district includes nine schools where about 31 teachers serve 410 students, making it large compared with Alaska's average district size of three teachers for 43 students, according to Public School Review.
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