#ThinkArctic Podcast


GCI's #ThinkArctic podcast is about exploring the challenges and opportunities in the Arctic by shining a light on innovation. As Alaska's premier Arctic telecommunications provider, GCI aims to elevate the dialogue between those that live in the Arctic and those that are looking to the Arctic for opportunity. This podcast is powered by GCI and produced by RH Strategic

Listen to the latest episodes below, or listen and subscribe on iTunes.

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Do you have a unique and interesting perspective on the Arctic or a topic suggestion? If you would you like to be interviewed for a future episode of #ThinkArctic, please contact us!

Game Changers in the Arctic

Today there is global awareness and interest in the Arctic like never before. From local, to national, to global, all eyes are looking to the Arctic for opportunities. Economic development of the Arctic must be balanced with an awareness and preservation of the unique cultures that exist there. 

















Arctic Telecommunications

The backbone for any development is telecommunications infrastructure, and must be considered a pillar of Arctic strategy. Communications technology is currently limited in the Arctic, but through a combination of private and public investment, it can sustain existing and future programs that support development.

Building and managing telecommunications in the Arctic presents a unique set of challenges, unlike doing so anywhere else in the world. 

Tower Construction

Towers are often required in very remote locations that are not accessible by roads. They must be reliable and able to withstand Arctic weather conditions.

Fiber Trenching

Burying cable in Arctic land requires covering larger distances and digging into frozen earth, all within a shortened build season.


A vast amount of the Arctic is covered in water and ice and requires laying cable undersea. Accessibility to cable beneath ice is limited and the location must account for potential ice sheering.  


Some locations in the Arctic are so remote that they can only receive service via satellite, which requires an understanding of how to incorporate this technology into an existing IT network.


Weather conditions in the Arctic are some of the harshest, with extremely low temperatures and high winds. Construction and maintenance of infrastructure requires advanced planning and knowledge of the weather patterns. 


To construct and maintain a network in the Arctic requires the movement and coordination of equipment and people using helicopters, airplanes, and barges, all within a shortened build season.


To ensure compliance with federal, state, and environmental regulations around building on Arctic land, extensive permitting knowledge and experience is required.


Building Arctic infrastructure is often prohibitively high for companies and requires a combination of private and public investment. The ability to identify these funding opportunities and win them is essential to success. 

TERRA logo - 6.29.2017.jpg


With TERRA, GCI has begun to realize the vision of bringing broadband to the Arctic.

  • Started in 2011, today this historic project provides 84 villages and more than 45,000 residents with access to terrestrial broadband.
  • Has created 600 construction jobs and will indirectly create an additional 570 jobs within 10 years of the project's completion.
  • Won the 2014 Engineering News-Record Regional Best Project Award and the 2013 National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors Community Wireless Network of the Year award.
  • GCI is currently expanding the network with plans to build out to additional villages in the future.

Broadband's Benefit

GCI has been successfully delivering telecommunications to Alaska for decades under some of the most extreme conditions. Here is how broadband has helped to drive economic development. 

Intelligent Energy Systems

In 2005, local leaders from villages along the Kuskokwim River formed the Chaninik Wind Group (CWG) and began building a series of smart grids designed to integrate cheaper wind power into their energy systems. Initially the grids relied on satellite Internet service for remote communications and data transmission, but for a number of reasons it wasn’t up to the task. Weather, long lag times, and satellite dishes that needed frequent adjusting all hampered the CWG’s effort to use as much wind energy as possible.

Then in 2012, the TERRA network arrived in Southwest Alaska bringing terrestrial broadband to the region for the first time. Prior to TERRA, broadband speeds were delivered via cable modem and DSL. “TERRA made it all possible,” says Dennis Meiners of Intelligent Energy Systems, the Anchorage company that helped the CWG design and build its grids. “Whether it’s a wind turbine, a diesel generator, a protective relay, or a meter, the smart grids are a collection of controllers that need to work together. The Internet allows us to capture, share and understand the data that keeps those systems operating efficiently and reliably. Things happen on a micro-second basis, so a fast Internet connection like TERRA makes all the difference.”

Lower Kuskokwim School District

The Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) has an impressive state-of-the-art technology infrastructure that supports a variety of online instructional platforms and links a system of 28 schools in a rural geographical area that spans 22,000 square miles. LKSD is about as remote as school districts come. Its 23 communities are spread throughout Southwest Alaska with access only by plane. LKSD is the size of West Virginia and the 4,000 student are spread throughout the community in 28 schools ranging from 15 to 520 students. With such a large terrain to cover, ensuring quality education is challenging. But in partnership with GCI SchoolAccess, LKSD implemented the state’s largest distance education program through video conferencing. How does it work? Each student has direct access to the teaching studio in Bethel and other schools within the district so that regardless of location, students receive instruction from highly qualified teachers in math, science, Alaska native languages and more. This has the ability to transform lives by giving all students equal opportunity. It is also helpful that the schools are able to share resources across the district.

Additionally, LKSD offers extensive professional development for staff members throughout the year over their distance learning network. These include interactive, live and recorded sessions that originate out of the district office teaching studios presented by content area specialist from the district. LKSD has also developed and implemented an effective employee recruitment and retention process that has resulted in one of the lowest turnover rates among all rural Alaska school systems.

LKSD recently became the first school district in Alaska to receive the AdvanceED Systems Accreditation award – a highly regarded achievement in education. AdvancED is the global leader in providing continuous improvement and accreditation services to more than 32,000 institutions worldwide.  

Seaview Community Services

Psychiatrists are rare across Alaska, but especially so in small towns. In Seward, a village of about 3,000 residents on Alaska’s south coast, the only way to obtain care without a long journey was to wait for a monthly visit from an Anchorage-based psychiatrist. Now SeaView Community Services, a Seward-based non-profit social-service agency, uses GCI’s ConnectMD to connect psychiatric patients with a psychiatrist – all remotely. Some 45 patients take advantage of the service each week. 

ConnectMD created a direct network connection to link SeaView Community Services with API’s psychiatric services network.  Because API also is a ConnectMD customer, SeaView and API can easily connect to one another. The telemedicine network provided by ConnectMD also meets HIPAA requirements for patient privacy.

Now, when a Seward resident needs care for depression, bipolar disorders, or even schizophrenia, they visit a room at the community center made comfortable for such sessions including a sofa, side chair, plants, and bookshelves. Through video-conferencing equipment and a 42-inch high-definition television, the patient talks with a psychiatrist. A SeaView Community Center case manager typically sits in on the sessions.

Arctic Blog

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Additional Resources


Institute of the North:

Arctic Circle

Arctic Encounter Symposium

Alaska Arctic Policy Commission

Arctic Policy: US State Dept

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If you’re involved in or interested in projects, partnerships, or policies related to the Arctic, please contact us.


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