Undersea fiber optic cable work planned for fall

Timely environmental approval and a cable-laying ship available after finishing another job in Alaska waters will allow Alaska Power & Telephone to move ahead this fall with installation of a 214-mile undersea fiber optic cable from Prince of Wales Island to Juneau.

The project, along with onshore network build-outs in Coffman Cove and Kasaan, will bring high-speed internet to the two Southeast communities.

The $28.5 million project, called SEALink, is being funded by a $21.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Services, and $7 million from AP&T, the company said in a prepared statement.

AP&T provides telephone service in Wrangell but not broadband internet, which is provided by GCI using its own undersea fiber optic cable.

Though the Prince of Wales Island communities are closer to Ketchikan than Juneau, running the new cable north is the best option for connecting with undersea lines that move data between Alaska, the Lower 48 and the rest of the world, Jason Custer, AP&T vice president for business development, said last Thursday.

“We’re building for the future,” Custer said of potential expansions in capacity and areas served in Southeast.

Coffman Cove and Kasaan, in particular, need more capacity to move data. Everything on Prince of Wales Island currently moves through an older microwave network with limited capacity, he said.

The federal Rural Utility Services agency granted environmental clearance for the cable project in December, earlier than expected, said AP&T, which then contracted with a German company for the cable.

A cable-laying ship will be in Alaska this summer, installing 860 miles of fiber optic line for GCI from Kodiak through the Aleutian Islands. Fortunately for AP&T, the company was able to schedule the ship for the Southeast work after it is done in the Aleutians, Custer said.

The cable work is scheduled for the fall, he said, and will take about a month.

The line will be lowered to the seafloor except for a small segment when it comes ashore at Mitkof Island and goes through Petersburg on its way to Juneau, AP&T said.


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