Faster Internet speeds are offered on every internet or digital television ad these days, but that doesn’t guarantee every location has access. Fast speeds, more data, extreme systems could all be yours; unless you live near the end of Eklutna Lake Road.
Randy Bangerter works from home as a graphic designer near the end of Eklutna Lake Road. He uses satellite Internet through Exceed. It is generally working, unless it’s cloudy, rainy or the northern lights are dancing overhead.
Those natural weather events can interfere with the satellite signals. So Bangerter also has DSL from MTA. The service is the best he can get – 768kb. The plan is so inadequate in most cases that it isn’t listed on the plans page at the MTA website, he said.
As Internet and digital television go, MTA and satellite are the only possibilities in the Eklutna area. Broadband services, like Clearwire, often depend on cell towers. Those are lacking in the area as well.
Currently, homes up Eklutna Lake Road don’t have adequate cell phone service closer to Eklutna Lake. Anyone who has spent time up there can attest to that. In fact, the emergency phone near the ranger station is conceivably one of the last few payphones in Alaska. So most folks living up in the Eklutna Valley rely on landline service from MTA.
Members of Eklutna Valley Community Council are asking for a change. They’ve banded together started gathering data hoping to ask MTA to bring stronger Internet over their lines to the community.
Bangerter set up a survey of residents on Facebook. He pulled four Internet plans from the MTA website and polled the neighbors. Every person who responded was interested, but not all were interested in the same plan. The lowest priced plan gave 12-15 times the data speeds of the plan everyone is on in his area. The most popular plan was the 20mg upload and 75mg download for $275 a month.
Calls to MTA were not returned as of press deadline, however, Bangerter and other residents learned of some issues from MTA during previous calls asking about faster service. One member said she was told there are only about 100 MTA members who are still on the 768g plan. Others were told that significant infrastructure improvements are needed to provide better service up the valley. The cost of that is unknown.
Margan Grover, EVCC president, said her speed is averaging less than 300kb on the 768 plan. Bangerter says that the current plan doesn’t allow for downloads, especially large files such as those he works with.
Bangerter did some math, averaging the amounts to be generated by the chosen MTA plans and subtracting the current fees residents pay, he believes that MTA would receive roughly $17,000 a year from the Eklutna Valley residents should they offer the plans to residents.
It is unknown how the development of the new Ernie Turner Center around mile 2 will impact the need for faster service. Bangerter believes the current lines could possibly be overburdened depending on the design plans for the development.
Editor’s Note: The ECHO News welcomes hearing from MTA officials regarding this issue. Email Amy Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.