In August 2020, SWAMC was awarded Supplemental CARES Act grant funding from the Economic Development Administration to help the SWAMC region recover from economic impacts from COVID-19 and become stronger going forward. The pandemic underscored how critically a broadband solution is needed in the region. Southwest Alaska’s ability to pivot to distance delivery of workforce, educational, and healthcare services, as well as the ability of businesses to access relief funding, has been terribly handicapped by regional and local internet limitations. One of the three focus areas of SWAMC’s grant is to help the region address inadequate and unreliable internet communications infrastructure.
SWAMC is working with Harold Johnston of Alaska Tribal Broadband (ATB) to develop a regional broadband plan, also referred to as “Broadband-In-A-Box”. ATB will provide a broadband plan for each SWAMC community that serves all broadband needs within each community, positioning communities to utilize tribal 2.5 GHz spectrum as the broadband asset core of the last-mile, and to interconnect that last-mile with the appropriate planned upgrade middle-mile, either fiber or satellite.
The “Broadband-In-A-Box” Plan will position each community to be “shovel-ready” to apply for federal broadband infrastructure funding. To attain this, the Plan will define the network, customer premises equipment, and supporting infrastructure needed to deploy the last-mile network, and network integration with the best middle-mile alternative that will be available for each community. The Plan will include operations support recommendations. capital and expense budgets to implement and operate the last-mile network, and potential sources of funding. This work will be taking place into Summer 2021.