Northern Exposure: Cool Internet News from Alaska recently made its first contact with an Internet industry professional in Alaska: David Morris, spokersperson for GCI.

GCI is an Alaska-based integrated communications provider that delivers voice, video and data services through its fiber optic, satellite, hybrid fiber coaxial and metropolitan area network.

According to GCI’s Spokesperson David Morris, GCI is Alaska’s largest ISP offering dial-up, cable modem, DSL and DIAS Internet services. “We also provide satellite-delivered Internet service to half of the K-12 schools in the state,” says Morris.

Impressed by what seems to be some cool Internet action up North, asked Morris to provide us with some more details: Does Alaska have an Internet industry?

David Morris: Not so much in the dotcom sense, but one look at the state and you’ll understand the instant appeal of the Internet for education, commerce and just staying connected with friends & family in the lower 48 states. The
state is so large that the “virtual highway” that the Internet provides is a must.

In rural Alaska, educators and medicos simply don’t have access to resources found in urban areas. The Internet and IP technology allows them to stay connected with their peers and have access to consultants that
just aren’t available. Most schools in Alaska are online and we offer a managed Internet product that allows educators to get more out of it than just a computer connection. see

The State of Alaska has been recognized as being one of the most online state governments and goes out of its way to make government and services more accessible. Look at the map and you’ll understand–Juneau the state
capitol is only accessible by boat or airplane, no roads.

there’s major events in each of the major cities — Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau — that features Internet
happenings. Some of the major ones are Infocom in Anchorage and Comtech in Juneau.

Anchorage is the main hub for Alaska. Can you provide some interesting Internet statistics on Alaska?

David Morris: Alaska has either the highest or second highest online per capita rating for the past couple of years — high 50th percentile+ (according to US Commerce). It also has the highest or second highest per capita in-home PC penetration rate–high 70th percentile plus.

According to our stats, Alaskans sign up for hi-speed access at 3x the national rate. Juneau has about a 16% penetration rate of hi-speed service.

Most of our long-distance customers have been introduced to the Internet through our free, unlimited Internet service. As consumers get more comfortable with the Internet, many will upgrade to a pay Internet service
with more features or to the high-speed cable modem or DSL service.

And, yes Virginia, North Pole does have cable modem access. Any VC action in Alaska?

David Morris: There’s always something going on — the land is populated by entrepreneurs
and wannabes. GCI in fact was started by our current CEO 20 years ago out of his partner’s garage. It went public in 1987, but there’s always efforts afoot to try new things.

Alaska is an interesting microcosm of the US. It’s a snapshot of all the things that the 1996 Telecommunication Act is suppose to be. At GCI, convergence is more than just a buzzword and it shows in the integrated communications services that we provide (Internet, local, LD, cable TV). By having pulled together the facilities, we’ll be able to provide whatever application that is developed, regardless of the transmission medium. We’re already providing high-speed Internet access through coax AND copper. We will be positioned to provide voice-over-IP as the technology matures and provide 2-way services (digital & cable modem) through the broadband cable

TV plant.

In the lower 48, most providers have wedded themselves to one technology or platform and hope things develop in that direction. For GCI, we have considerably more flexibilty.

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