Alan Davidson, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), detailed challenges that some in rural Alaska still face with getting adequate internet and broadband support at a webinar hosted by the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA).
“There’s nothing like seeing firsthand where the real challenges and opportunities are going to be. And nowhere is that honestly more real than Alaska,” Davidson said.
“It’s beautiful, but it becomes instantly clear what the challenges are going to be like,” he added. “The unique topography, the scale of it, right, just hundreds of miles flying over nothing to reach a village or a town where we’re going to need to figure out how to get high-speed internet installed there.”
This challenge has become incredibly apparent to Davidson, who explained that many of these people living in remote Alaska have very little upload and download speeds that are shared among a large number of people.
“They’ve got just really slow service. We were in this village of Tanana, Alaska, on the shores of the Yukon River. They are 300 people sharing a 30 megabit per second connection, which is very slow and unacceptable,” he said.
Davidson believes that this will change now with the recent passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law passed late last year that allocated funds for broadband support.
“This is kind of a once-in-a-generation opportunity, right? Like it is not often that we get these kinds of resources to do a big infrastructure project like this. This is our shot at bridging the digital divide. So, we need to get this right,” said Davidson.