We took off from the Kodiak airport after a long delay due to high winds. The flight to Akhiok was beautiful but bumpy. As we flew south along the western coast of Kodiak. The sheer distance of the flight and the seemingly impassable mountains that stretched to the horizon from our right wing clearly illustrated the physical challenge of bringing broadband to the village. Currently Kodiak Microwave Service has a microwave system setup to broadcast signal to the village over several microwave links and Alaska Communications provides DSL service to the village. The microwave link works well, most of the time. However, in the worst storms the wind and ice can disrupt the signal and the service can go out for days at a time.
For some of the most able and independent people that I have ever met, losing the Internet isn’t a big deal. The clams in Akhiok are plentiful and the community certainly won’t go hungry. The knowledge that the people of the village have of the land and the animals was astounding! I learned more about shellfish sitting for an hour with my friends at the tribe in Akhiok than I have ever learned from my time volunteering in the scallop lab at Alaska Department of Fish and Game. I was astounded at the way that they passed so much valuable knowledge to me in such a short amount of time.
The goal of the Digital Inclusion Corps project in Kodiak was to try to advance digital inclusion in the villages. From the beginning, I have been thinking of the problem in reverse. I wanted to connect the villages to the Internet so that they would have the opportunities that are available online. In the final days of the project, I now see that it is us that will gain the most by connecting the villages. The knowledge that the people of our most remote communities have and are willing to share is beyond comprehension. It is the contribution of these type of amazing individuals that make access to the Internet such a priceless resource.