Faster speeds collide with costly caps in Alaska

22 March 2014 by Steve Blum
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Consumer broadband service is getting faster in Alaska, although data caps and a high cost for exceeding them will still limit its usefulness. GCI is the largest cable company in Alaska, and it just announced a no cost upgrade of its flagship Red service to 200 Mbps download speeds, starting in Anchorage. GCI’s plan is to hit a gigabit by the end of next year, at least in the neighborhoods where it decides to invest in fiber-to-the-home deployments

GCI will prioritize the neighborhoods to get the new 1 gig service, based on the number of homes that have expressed interest…Recruit your neighbors. Tell them to get fibered. The neighborhood with the most applicants will win the race to get fibered.

The 200 Mbps service costs $185 per month, with a $10 discount if you buy cable TV service too. That comes with a monthly 500 GB cap and a $1 charge for every extra GB (50¢ if you’re a TV subscriber). Its low-end service – 10 Mbps for $50 – is capped at 10 GB with a whopping $10 per GB over that ($5 for TV subs, also with a $10 discount).

Part of the problem is that connections to the core of the Internet have to go via one of four submarine cables, of which GCI owns two. Even with competitive options, it’s expensive to connect back to Seattle and Portland. A muni system in Ketchikan – which competes with GCI and uses its fiber for backhaul – charges $5 a GB for going over caps, which range from 30 to 200 GB at $25 to $150 a month depending on the plan (although it also offers discounts and “unlimited” options for TV subscribers).