Internet and cellular outages in Northwest Alaska, North Slope caused by offshore fiber optic cutting

This week, residents of several communities in North Slope and Northwest Alaska experienced outages in their Internet and cellular service caused by a cut to their undersea fiber optic network. The cut could take up to two months to fix, and telecom service providers are looking for short-term solutions to get service back online.

Quintillion, which provides broadband connectivity in arctic Alaska, suffered an underwater fiber outage on Sunday about 34 miles north of Oliktok Point, off Utqiagvik, Quintillion chairman Mac McHale said. The cut caused a system-wide outage, affecting Utqiagvik, Wainwright, Point Hope, Kotzebue, Nome and Atqasuk, McHale said.

All of our broadband services are impacted, McHale said. And they’re not compromised, they’re completely out.

While the company was still confirming the cause of the break on Monday, the heavy ice movement most likely severed the fiber cable, McHale said. The break is significant, given that the cable is buried under the ocean floor, under 90 feet of water, McHale said.

To repair the cut, repair crews must wait until the ice breaks up around Oliktok Point, which is expected in late June or early July, McHale said.

We’ll be on site by then, he said. We’re looking at probably six to eight weeks.

As of Monday, the company was working to isolate the repairs, assess the damage and find the right tools to make the repairs, McHale said. Meanwhile they were also looking for backup solutions.

Quintilions’ customers include telecommunications companies in Northwest Alaska and the North Slope, such as Alaska Communications, GCI, OTZ Telecommunications, and the Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative.

The North Slope communities served by the Arctic Slope Telephone Association cooperative on Monday experienced varying levels of disruption, said Rebecca Sparks, ASTAC’s external affairs manager.

We have four communities with various interruptions. They vary from community to community, but overall there are long-distance cellular and network outages, he said. They can call within their community.

In several North Slope villages, excluding Utqiagvik, 911 emergency services were also affected by the outages, Sparks said.

Mary Lum Patkotak, a resident of Utqiagvik, said she has no internet at work and cannot make cell phone calls.

It’s extremely frustrating that I can’t reach out to my children and granddaughters, she said. We are so used to being connected.

In the Northwest Arctic District, Kotzebue residents experienced Internet outages on Monday, said Kelly Williams, CEO of OTZ Telecommunications. A backup facility kept voice and emergency services running.

Some businesses are closed due to lack of internet, said Kotzebue’s Bruce Nelson. NAPA is cash only.

The 10 other village communities served by OTZ Telecommunications are powered by a satellite system and don’t rely on the undersea fiber-optic network, Williams said.

The company was also working on alternative satellite technologies to get Internet service by the end of this week or early next week, Williams said.

Some GCI customers in rural Alaska, particularly those in Utqiagvik, Nome, Kotzebue, Wainwright and Point Hope, have also experienced slower wireless and internet service due to a network outage, said GCI spokeswoman Heather Handyside. in a note. Handyside said the company has redistributed some of the services to other networks to address the issue.

Shortly after the outage was reported, GCI began migrating some affected services to GCI’s satellite network, Handyside said. This transition completed quickly.

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