GCI completes critical milestone in construction of TERRA high-speed broadband network

August 1, 2017

Alaska telecom only months away from completing $300 million rural infrastructure project

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Assisted by the use of a specialized sky crane, GCI completed construction of several mountain top microwave towers this month during the final phase of its multi-million-dollar TERRA project. The project, Terrestrial for Every Rural Region in Alaska (TERRA), delivers high-speed broadband internet services and is already operational in more than 70 Alaska communities.

“Bringing broadband to rural Alaska has its own unique logistical challenges,” said Mark Carlson, TERRA project manager, GCI. “For us to successfully transport equipment to each summit, every lift must be a ‘perfect storm’ of factors working in our favor: from weather to transportation to timing, everything has to go right. We certainly couldn’t have done it without our partnership with STG and Erickson. This kind of success is only possible when a lot of people work together.”

Alaska’s STG Inc. and Erickson Air-Crane provided the aerial coordination and specialized equipment to construct TERRA microwave towers. The tower completion milestone marked a significant engineering feat, requiring equipment weighing upwards of 17,000 pounds to be transported via skycrane helicopter to strategic mountaintops across Alaska, often called the “heavy lift.”

“Between helicopter lifts, delivering thousands of gallons of fuel and building infrastructure with crews camping out on mountaintops, we are facing challenges head-on to bring connectivity to our customers in communities across western Alaska,” Carlson said.

In six days, crews completed 35 lifts on six mountaintops and two villages. These sites are spread out over approximately 480 miles. 

GCI’s TERRA project will connect 84 communities and 45,000 people to high-speed broadband by the end of 2017. The fiber-optic and microwave network provides high-speed data streaming, which is a transformational service for many rural Alaska communities. With TERRA, communities have access to secure, high-quality video conferencing — a critical tool for health care and education that can result in long-term cost savings for Alaskans and the agencies that serve them. These heavy lifts will culminate in a “Closing of the Ring,” which will reduce service delays by redirecting connectivity when necessary.


GCI launched the Terrestrial For Ever Rural Region in Alaska (TERRA) project in 2010. The fiber-optic and microwave network will deliver high-speed broadband to 84 communities and nearly 45,000 residents by the end of 2017. TERRA provides communities access to high-quality video conferencing, faster data speeds and improved bandwidth, critical tools for health care, education and public safety. The ambitious project has won numerous awards including the 2013 NATOA (National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors) Community Broadband Wireless Network of the Year Award and the 2014 Engineering News Record (ENR) Best Projects Regional Award.

About GCI

GCI is the largest communications provider in Alaska, providing data, wireless, video, voice, and managed services to consumer and business customers throughout the nation. Headquartered in Alaska, GCI has delivered services for nearly 40 years to some of the most remote communities and in some of the most challenging conditions in North America. Learn more about GCI at www.gci.com.

Media Contact

Heather Handyside, GCI
(907) 301-3481, hhandyside@gci.com