On Tuesday morning, I sat on the steps of the Jesse Wakefield Memorial Library with some of the community members from Port Lions, Alaska. I, along with them, was there using the Internet supplied by the library through the Online with Libraries or OWL program that is funded by the State of Alaska and the E-rate program. I spoke with the community members about the Internet in Port Lions. The Internet connection to the library is both very expensive ($4700 per month) and very slow (1.5 Mbps download speed.) It is apparent in the community that everyone realizes the deficit that they are facing due to the lack of access to high-speed Internet in the village.
I met with the Mayor of Port Lions and the Administrator for the Native Village of Port Lions to discuss how to improve the service provided in the village. The community has made it known that the quality of Internet service that is being provided to the village is unacceptable. Unfortunately, no one in the village has a clear idea on how to solve the disparity that they are facing regarding both infrastructure and access. The problem, ironically, lies in communication.
Kodiak Microwave Service, Alaska Communications, GCI, Verizon, Hughes Net, and TelAlaska are all active telecommunications companies in Port Lions. Unfortunately, the community does not have a clear idea on how these companies are working to connect the village. The Kodiak Rural Connect team has organized a forum in September that will allow the telecommunications companies to outline their plans to serve the needs of their customers in the rural villages. The Kodiak Rural Leadership Forum is a place where government and tribal leadership from the villages can come together to address the challenges they are facing as a united group of citizens. When communities come together to bridge the communication gap between government, telecommunications companies and consumers we can begin to solve the challenges faced by communities that lack equitable access. In Port Lions, this is exactly what we are working to achieve.