Internet traveling to Nome on light waves

Fiber-optic broadband may send movie lovers to the kitchen for more and more popcorn next year when they can download entertainment without buffering delays and without running up over-the-limit charges early in billing periods.
Local Internet service providers should be able to hook up for the first time to affordable wholesale fiber optic broadband service coming ashore in March next year, according to Elizabeth Pierce, CEO and co-founder of Quintillion Networks.
Internet users will not be able to look up and see cables transferring data from pole to pole. The only place residents can see signs of data coming into Nome is at a “manhole” installation on the north side of East Front Street. That’s where a narrow fiber-optic will come ashore from a subsea cable bringing information coded in light waves. From there, a terrestrial cable will run west underground to a station at the Tel-Alaska building.
The network comprises a three-pair system with one pair reserved for express route between Europe and Asia.
Quintillion is running a 766-mile subsea cable system from Nome to Prudhoe Bay, with spurs coming off to village landings at Kotzebue, Point Hope, Wainwright, Barrow and Oliktok Point.
Quintillion held informational meetings in landing communities last week.
Quintillion is committed to bringing affordable broadband to rural Alaska villages, Pierce said.
 However, there are currently no plans for technicians in Quintillion service trucks to roll up to connect homes to fast, cheap Internet service. Quintillion is leaving installation to local ISPs.
Quintillion is a carrier for local providers that will sell broadband wholesale to any local provider, thus fostering competition and economical service. Quintillion expects ISPs to pass the savings on to customers. Quintillion’s business will be carrier neutral; all telecoms can use the networks.
However, Quintillion plans to keep an eye on broadband services; if the company does not see urban comparability developing in access and pricing, the company will step in, Pierce said Feb. 11.
Pierce expects affordable high-speed bandwidth to enable improvements in education, healthcare, public safety, search and rescue and to stimulate economic growth, all bettering quality of life in rural Alaska and northern communities.
The City of Nome has supported Quintillion’s application for a permit from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to bring the spurs ashore from the marine route.
“The linking of this new fiber-optic line from the existing North Slope terrestrial-based service to these six rural Alaska communities will provide critically needed high-speed Internet services to a region where connectivity is frequently compromised and delayed, City Manager Tom Moran wrote to the U.S.ACE.
A U.S. investment group, Cooper Investment Partners, and selected Alaska investors privately fund Quintillion Networks, based in Anchorage. There is no government or grant money; users will pay costs.
Several years ago a group with experience in the telecommunications activities learned about Canadian company Arctic Fibre’s plan to run a subsea intercontinental fiber optic from London to Tokyo by passing through the Northwest Passage, they got the idea to tap into the fiber-optic cable with spurs off the cable to Alaska communities.
Now, within the last year, Quintillion Networks LLC has purchased the assets of Arctic Fibre.  Arctic Fibre is no longer a part of the project development.
Quintillion has contracted with French company Alcatel Submarine Works, a global supplier of subsea cable systems to lay the subsea cable. Work will begin in late June and continue into September. Phase 1 will construct the Alaska system becoming operational in early 2017. From Prudhoe Bay a terrestrial cable will run travel down the Dalton Highway to Fairbanks. An existing fiber-optic system will take data from Fairbanks to Anchorage and the Pacific Northwest.
Planning began in 2015 and included consultations with whalers and co-management groups as well as community meetings.
In Phase 2, under development, cable will extend from a branching unit at Nome to Japan, with options for additional Alaska spurs such as to Shemya. Phase 3 will take subsea cable from Prudhoe Bay to Canada and Europe by way of the Northwest Passage with spurs to communities in the Canadian Arctic. Phases 2 and 3 will add additional multiple redundancies.
When complete, the Quintillion system will join an undersea network of over 300 underwater cables systems connecting continents and crisscrossing between population centers.
The route for the Alaska system has been confirmed. Cable will be buried in shallow areas and lie on the sea floor in deeper water. The system will have multiple redundancies, meaning there will be several routes for data to travel along the network to destinations.
Bathymetric surveys have revealed where there might be threat of ice scouring and the route planned accordingly. Fishery activities and offshore gold miners offer threats to the cable. Quintillion has worked with local miners and fishers to winnow a route through areas of high activity.
Alcatel will use the 460-foot vessel Ile de Brehat to lay or bury cable by dragging a plow at 0.5 knots.
Study shows the sound level of cable laying at 170-to 180 decibels at the source. Seismic activities produce noise at a level of 220 to 240 decibels at the source.  
The cable route observes a buffer around Alaska’s coastline ranging from five to 50 miles.
Quintillion has made the resources of the Alaska Marine Exchange available to environmental monitoring groups to be able to pinpoint the location of the Ile de Brehat as desired.  
There will be regular ship-to-shore communication between the ship and AEWC and landing villages.
As retreating ice has opened arctic waters to commerce, resource exploration shipping and other marine activities, it has also opened pathways for digital communication cables, permitting a critical link for potential users of the network to existing resources and developing needs among northern communities.

The Nome Nugget

PO Box 610
Nome, Alaska 99762

Phone: (907) 443-5235
Fax: (907) 443-5112

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