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New Fiberoptic Cable Infrastructure Is Changing Alaska’s Classrooms

Rural Alaska has some of the least reliable and slowest internet connections in the country, but new cable infrastructure in the Arctic Sea is changing that.
February 8, 2019, 1pm PST | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Sebastiaan ter Burg

Nome, Alaska’s schools classes are getting new video-taught classes, something that would have been borderline impossible a year ago. Isolated Alaskan schools lack the staffing and resources to provide some of the lessons students could get in other parts of the country, in part because they can have slow, unreliable internet.

"Nome and two other school districts in northwestern Alaska are pioneering a high-speed fiber-optic cable connection that has the potential to transform how education is delivered in the state—and shrink a connectivity gap between rural Alaska and the majority of American schools," Mareesa Nicosia writes for the Hechinger Report. Nome is not the only Alaskan town with slow internet connections. "Alaska ranks last in the nation in the percent of its school districts meeting the minimum internet-speed targets set by the Federal Communications Commission, according to the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway," Nicosia reports.

This new infrastructure is being made possible in part because of global warming. As Arctic sea ice melts, it’s become possible to install fiberoptic cable connections. "In March, Nome Public Schools became the first school district to connect to the cable, officials said; over the summer, the neighboring North Slope Borough and Northwest Arctic Borough school districts joined as well," Nicosia writes. Private equity is building this infrastructure with the hopes of eventually connecting Alaska to Asia, but in the meantime rural Alaskan schools are benefitting from the new infrastructure.

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Published on Monday, January 28, 2019 in The Heichinger Report
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