Some residents of Soldotna can forget about that pokey 56k modem hooked up to their home computers. It's old technology.
Alaska Communications Systems, the company that owns PTI, ATU and Mactel, is bringing high-speed Internet access to the Kenai Peninsula that is 10 to 20 times faster than current modems.
At first, the service will be limited to a three-mile radius of the PTI wire center in Soldotna.
"We're in a beta test mode right now," said Jeff Tyson, vice-president and general manager of Internet for ACS. "We're offering service in a very limited basis around the Soldotna office, but we're looking to expand."
Tyson said the service, called "asynchronous digital subscriber line," or ADSL, comes in two packages. The standard service allows download speeds of 320 kilobits per second (320k). Upload speeds, what is sent from the home computer to the Internet, is 240k. The company is offering that service for $54.95 per month. For $20 more a month, power surfers can get download speeds of 640k. As an introductory offer, ACS is offering a free modem, interface card, software and hook up.
The ADSL service operates on existing phone lines and is always on. Customers are connected to the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And there is no need to pay for a second telephone line, as voice calls can be made on the same phone line at the same time.
"The very same copper wire is capable of carrying more bandwidth, so we take the higher frequencies and transmit the data path over the voice path," Tyson said. "It relieves the need for a second line."
The high speed ADSL service was introduced to the public in January after an extended beta test in Anchorage. It then was offered in Fairbanks and Juneau.
"Rather than do what the Bell companies did in the Lower 48, where they rolled out the service and then learned about it, we learned about it and then rolled it out," he said.
After the call capacity controversy last winter, when residents of the central peninsula experienced chronic busy signals, PTI installed new equipment them helped in allowing the company to offer ADSL service.
Cable modems, the other high-speed Internet technology sweeping the nation, are about a year away from arriving on the peninsula, according to GCI spokesperson David Morris. GCI had planned to offer cable modem Internet service this summer.
Morris said there are two obstacles to offering the service, which can reach speeds even faster than ADSL. One obstacle is adding more capacity and capability to the current system, and the other is how to get that huge amount of bandwidth off the Kenai Peninsula, which is currently not served by fiber-optic cable.
"We can do the plant construction, but getting to the backbone is the issue," Morris said. "It's a lot easier to arrive at the ability with fiber than it is with microwave or satellites."
Meanwhile, ACS plans to continually expand its ADSL service outside of Soldotna until most of the central peninsula is covered, perhaps by later in the summer.
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