Report documents rural Internet access

Posted: Sunday, January 21, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Nearly every Alaska community with more than 25 people has digital touch-tone phone service but more than half do not have local dial-up Internet capability, according to a report released Thursday.

The rural telecommunications report was prepared for the Denali Commission and distributed at the commission's quarterly meeting in Juneau.

The commission, created in 1998, addresses infrastructure and utility needs in rural Alaska, largely through federal funding.

''An important part of doing our job is knowing what communication services are currently available,'' said Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, co-chair of the Denali Commission. ''We'll use this information as we consider what role the Denali Commission might play in assuring that rural Alaska has access to the information highway.''

The rural telecommunications report, prepared by the McDowell Group consultants, included 264 Alaska towns, encompassing the state's rural communities with more than 25 residents, Ulmer said.

The McDowell report found that 100 of those communities had local dial-up Internet service. Residents of the other 164 settlements must pay long distance fees or other surcharges to access the World Wide Web.

Local telephone providers say the high cost and limited availability of satellite space often poses cost problems in serving rural areas, according to the report.

''It poses such a challenge that Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has called on the telecommunications industry to seek a solution and expand telecommunications and information service, including high-speed broadband Internet access, to rural communities,'' according to the report.

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