Alaska Communications, the leading broadband provider in Alaska, expanded operations and became the first provider to bring Voice over Internet to Juneau, Fairbanks, and Kenai. The move will likely help to expand business operations throughout the state and bring faster speeds to rural areas over time.

Alaska Struggling to Catch Up
The 49th state lags behind much of the U.S. in terms of both Internet access and speed. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a report in January stating 17 percent of Americans don’t have access to broadband Internet. When you divide populations by urban and rural residents, 53 percent of Americans in rural areas lack access to broadband.

In Alaska, that number shoots to 81 percent. The FCC sets the benchmark for broadband speeds at 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 megabits for upload speeds. Even with broadband the average Internet speed in Alaska clocks in at only 7 Mbps. Alaska Communications hopes their service will help increase these speeds.

What is Voice over Internet?
Alaska Communications’ hosted Voice over Internet service is a flexible phone communication system that’ll bring high definition voice capability to the region. The service provides increased sound capabilities along with more options for connection to both small and large businesses across the state. The service was first introduced to small businesses in Anchorage in 2012 and has slowly spread throughout Alaska since.

Voice over Internet allows businesses to make phone calls over the Internet. The service is cloud-based and the company claims it’ll reduce operating costs while also maintaining low up-front costs for customers.

Alaska Communications controls the underwater fiber-optic cable that connects the state to the lower 48. Since introducing hosted Voice over Internet to more cities, some have seen significant spikes in Internet speeds. Kenai has seen peaks of up to 64.99 Mbps.

The packages available in the service include dedicated voice-network access along with the Alaska Voice™ mobility app, voicemail services over the Internet, and office phones.

Enhancing Business Solutions
A partnership between Alaska Communications and Quintillion Holds, a fund administration company, led to the spread of Voice over Internet. The companies hope the new service will help oil and gas producers along the North Slope increase operations and function at greater efficiency.

Quintillion Holdings also announced plans to begin a subsea fiber-optic connection between the North Slope and Fairbanks to boost connectivity to the state’s oil and gas fields. These industries provide 92 percent of the state’s unrestricted revenue. The new service could also serve as a boon to Alaska’s tourism industry.

Increased Internet speeds often lead to more productive and economic boosts. Alaska’s location could play an integral part in the spread of arctic fiber cables, providing a much-needed windfall to the state’s economy if it plays its cards right.

Right now, the state is focused on increasing speeds for businesses rather than residential customers with the hopes increased infrastructure will lead to more business opportunities and growth in not only cities, but also rural areas.

The Alaska Broadband Task Force estimates the state will need at least $1 billion to update the broadband infrastructure currently in place to meet the FCC’s standards for minimum speeds. The company still has work to do if it wants to reach customers in the more remote parts of Alaska, but this seems like a good start to a great service.

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