Blog // Connect Alaska

The Statewide Broadband Task Force Summit Recap

By Lyndsey Kleven

The Statewide Broadband Task Force and Connect Alaska hosted the state Broadband Task Force Summit on Tuesday, July 15. The Summit was designed to promote discussion about the task force report, including draft recommendations for education, public safety and e-commerce, and to discuss broadband access issues across Alaska.

“We've worked hard for more than 36 months to understand the complexities of deploying 100 Mega bits per second to every Alaska household by 2020, to recognize the importance of the Arctic in future broadband deployment, and to offer meaningful funding options,” said Roberta Graham, task force member and former assistant director of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development. “With the great input we received, we're hopeful the final report will serve as the blueprint for action.”

The Alaska Broadband Summit was held at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, with more than 100 stakeholders, broadband providers, technology companies, and community representatives in attendance.

Graham continued, “Of course, several of the task force draft recommendations already have been recognized as critical and have been acted upon, but there is more to accomplish in the coming months. The task force looks forward to being part of that process.”

“The summit provided a great opportunity to share the work of the task force with over 100 stakeholders and members of the community. This was an excellent chance to explain our work and the recommendations that resulted,” said Bill Popp, president and CEO, Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, and Task Force Chair. “In particular, the feedback sessions gave us direct comments from the attendees on their views of what we got right, what we need to change, and what is missing from the plan and our recommendations.”

Popp commented that in the coming weeks, the task force will meet again to review the many recommendations made at the summit and consider how to incorporate that feedback into the document. With that feedback incorporated, the plan will then be finalized through a vote of the task force and submitted to DCCED Commissioner Susan Bell for review and action by the State of Alaska. The task force plan will be a much better final product thanks to dialog and outcomes of this summit.

In its draft form, the report yielded several key pieces of legislation in 2014, including $5 million in funding that will be used to supplement E-Rate for schools and libraries in Alaska. After incorporating the recommended changes identified at the summit, the task force believes the final report will be even more useful as an educational tool and a guide for the upcoming 2015 legislative session.

On a federal level, Connected Nation, the parent organization of Connect Alaska, gave an update on recent FCC plans that will impact the future of Alaska broadband.

“The FCC recently voted for E-rate modernization to fund broadband infrastructure initiatives, and the parts of rural Alaska school districts are well-positioned to take advantage of this opportunity, given the work of Connect Alaska,” said Tom Koutsky, chief policy counsel for Connected Nation.

Connect Alaska continues to monitor broadband policy at the federal level with the recent announcement of the budget and application window for Rural Broadband Experiments and the Federal Communications Commission vote for E-rate modernization.

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