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Juneau – The University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of the Arctic are holding a forum early next week focused on broadband infrastructure and access in the Arctic. The Arctic Broadband Forum is being held in conjunction with the Week of the Arctic to celebrate the accomplishments of the Arctic Council under the chairmanship of the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will turn over the chairmanship of the council to Finland during the bi-annual Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting May 10th and 11th in Fairbanks. The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum made up of the eight countries with territory above the Arctic Circle and representatives of the indigenous people of the Arctic. The Council is focused on sustainable resource development, protecting the natural environment, and ensuring scientific cooperation between nations and institutions.
The Arctic Broadband Forum will be held on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Monday and Tuesday of next week. The forum brings together stakeholders to discuss the challenges of broadband in the Arctic with an emphasis on impacts to the indigenous people of the Arctic.
“Broadband internet access is lacking in the Arctic and across much of Alaska, which puts the region at a disadvantage when competing in a world economy that features a significant online component,” said Representative David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks). “The Arctic features many of the most isolated communities on earth but geographic isolation should not equal economic isolation. Broadband creates business and other opportunities that can invigorate local economies and help the indigenous people of the Arctic thrive while maintaining their cultural identity.”
The 2017 Arctic Broadband Forum begins Monday with remarks from the President of the University of Alaska and the Mayor of the North Star Borough. The forum’s keynote address will be made by the President and CEO of Quintillion Alaska, which is building a fiber optic project that will bring reliable broadband internet access to many remote Arctic communities in Alaska. The forum features several panel discussions including a panel on Tuesday highlighting government’s role in the Arctic’s broadband development. The panel will feature Rep. Guttenberg and representatives from the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, the Canadian Radio-TV Telecommunications Commission, the State of Alaska, and the Ministry of Transport and Communications in Finland.
“Too many Alaskans lack access to broadband internet and most of the internet speeds in Alaska are well below the national average. We don’t have enough competition, we don’t have enough providers, and we definitely don’t have enough infrastructure to meet the need in Alaska,” said Rep. Guttenberg. “Local, state, and national governments are responsible for planning for the future and they would be neglecting that responsibility if they don’t plan for a future with the ability to use internet for business, education, and health care. I want to be part of planning for a successful future in Alaska, which is why I am so focused on broadband access.”
The 2017 Arctic Broadband Summit will be held Monday and Tuesday in the William Ransom Wood Center on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
In addition to attending the 2017 Arctic Broadband Summit, Rep. Guttenberg is holding a constituent meeting Sunday in Fairbanks from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Margaret Murie Building on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The meeting is open to the public and will feature an update on the efforts of Rep. Guttenberg and other members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition to pass a comprehensive fiscal plan to close Alaska’s $2.7 billion budget gap and respond to the Alaska recession.