Residents react to next year's GCI email shutdown

GCI, Alaska’s largest telecommunications company, will end its email service in mid-2024. At that point, customers will no longer be able to access their accounts and will have to transition to new providers.

Reaction among Wrangell users is varied.

August Schultz has had a GCI email for “as long as GCI had email,” he said. The company has offered the service since the 1990s.

Schultz has been satisfied with his email and was surprised to learn that it will shut down next year. “They (GCI) didn’t email me, they didn’t send anything about it,” he said. “Usually, they tell people when they do that kind of stuff.”

News of the pending closure was inadvertently posted online a week ago, the company said.

Schultz isn’t too concerned about the pending GCI email shutdown. Now that he’s retired, he uses email infrequently, relying on Facebook for most of his communication. He already has a Gmail account that will become his primary account once GCI phases out the service.

Unlike Schultz, GCI email-user Marlene Messmer does not have a backup account. She uses her email “probably daily,” and isn’t sure what she will do when the shutdown happens. “I have not a clue,” she said. “I use it in my Kindle, I get all my stuff in there and get my contacts with other people. … I’ve just had it forever.”

Messmer worked in GCI customer service about 10 years ago and has been sad to see the company cut back on services, particularly its in-person storefront. “I’m just sorry that they couldn’t keep going in Wrangell,” she said.

Email “has not been a significant focus for GCI,” the company wrote in a draft fact sheet. “It has become increasingly complex and challenging for us to provide adequate support.” The domain has about 40,000 accounts, but in recent years, users have increasingly transitioned to other providers, such as Gmail, a GCI spokesperson told the Anchorage Daily News.

The company encourages users to transition to a new provider as quickly as possible. “It is essential to make a backup or export your old emails before the discontinuation of your gci.net email address,” read the draft fact sheet posted online. The company plans to communicate with its customers directly in the coming weeks.

The sheet recommended setting up a new address now, rather than waiting until the 2024 decommission date. “Make sure to notify your banks, credit card vendors, friends and family of your new email address. During the transition period, you will be able to continue receiving email to your gci.net address while gradually shifting to your new one.”

The Irene Ingle Public Library does not have official tech services, but Library Director Sarah Scambler said staff are willing to assist residents with the email transition to the best of their ability. “If people need help getting a new email address, we are available,” she said, but “they would need to know all of their information. If people come in and say, ‘I don’t know my password’ … we’re not magicians.”

She can help set up new addresses but doesn’t have experience transferring old emails to a new account.

 

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