Chamber hears report on Internet service
Local Internet service is as fast and cheaper than service in other comparably sized communities like Cordova, and only slightly more expensive than in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau, according to information shared by a representative of Alaska Power and Telephone, who spoke to a Haines Chamber of Commerce committee.
Bryant Smith recently addressed the chamber’s broadband committee, formed to look into local service. Committee members include James Alborough, a website designer who has worked on the Internet here since 1996.
"I was surprised because I always thought they were on the expensive side, but they had all the facts. I couldn’t argue (that Haines is underserved) compared to other towns served by other companies," Alborough said.
Alborough and chamber president Ned Rozbicki both said they were encouraged by an AP&T statement that the company would be receptive to making deals in the event that a customer or potential customer in Haines needed special services.
In a recent interview with the CVN, Smith said pricing has improved since 2009 when a microwave tower network AP&T built through Southeast reduced costs by eliminating dependence on other providers between AP&T-served communities and hubs in Juneau and Anchorage. "We were paying for everything," Smith said.
The microwave network is also part of the reason why service in Haines is cheaper than in Cordova.
In 2008, 256K of residential use with a 3 gigabyte cap cost $70 per month in Haines. The cost today for a month of 256K service and a 10 gigabyte cap is $50. The cost of other packages likewise has been reduced.
Since 2008, AP&T has also expanded offerings to include 1-megabyte and 4-megabyte service, and starting Oct. 3 has offered an 8-megabyte package. The 8-megabyte service will allow for streaming video and will help businesses that need to upload large files without long waits. "Whatever you do, it will decrease the wait time," Smith said.
AP&T still must buy bandwidth from AT&T, ACS or GCI for the connection between Juneau and Seattle. "We price shop between the three of them," Smith said.
Smith told the chamber group that Haines didn’t qualify for federal grants available for unserved or underserved communities through the Rural Utilities Service Broadband Initiatives Program.
AP&T did qualify, however, for "middle mile" grants under the program, that would have gone toward improving circuit facilities between Haines and Juneau, but the utility’s grant application was denied.
He said that grants are available for specific applications, such as distance learning and telemedicine, for governments, tribes or corporations. Individuals and communities are not eligible, he said.
Smith said AP&T had 76 customers at 4 megabytes; 106 customers at 1 megabyte; 297 customers at 512K; 357 customers at 256K and 109 customers at 64K.
Alborough said he’s satisfied with the 1-megabyte service he uses to build websites for clients all over the world.
"To me it’s getting faster, and for Haines, it’s getting cheaper. The current level of service I have no complaints about but I’ll never say no to cheaper and faster," Alborough said.