Satellite internet is on the way after Arctic fiber cut unplugs part of Alaska

Satellite internet competitors OneWeb and SpaceX are in the running to reconnect Alaskans after ice damaged a sub-sea fiber-optic cable in the Arctic Ocean, as reported by numerous local outlets. While repairs are expected to take an additional six to eight weeks, satellites could help locals weather the widespread outage.

Last week, residents in the rural towns of Utqiaġvik, Point Hope, Wainwright, Kotzebue, Nome, and other communities found themselves without internet or cellular connectivity when the 1,200-mile fiber cable owned by the Alaska-based broadband company Quintillion suffered a break. Quintillion says the cable broke as “a result of an ice scouring event.”

“Our sub-sea system is currently out of service,” Quintillion states. “Our dedicated team of experts is actively engaged in diagnosing and resolving the issue. They are working in coordination with our partners and undersea cable maintenance teams to restore the services at the earliest possible time.”

This is the map that shows where Quintillion’s cable broke.
Image: Quintillion

The outage has caused disruptions throughout the region, hampering 911 calls, closing businesses, and even impacting credit card transactions. While Quintillion says it’s working to get a repair vessel to the area, it could arrive as early as August, depending on weather and ice conditions. In the meantime, Quintillion is looking to satellite connectivity to hold residents over.

The company’s June 21st update says it has ordered user terminals capable of 500Mbps connections from OneWeb, a low Earth orbit satellite internet company. According to OneWeb spokesperson Katie Dowd, the company is partnering with Alaska Communications and Pacific Dataport to bring user terminals to “one to many or enterprise services,” helping to restore cellular service, community Wi-Fi, as well as government and corporate communications. Starlink also says it’s “coordinating with the State of Alaska, various local governments & Native communities to help provide connectivity where it’s needed most.”

Update June 26th, 10:45AM ET: Updated to add a statement from a OneWeb spokesperson.


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