Broadband Summit wraps up in Barrow with eye to future
July 22nd, 2016 | Carey Restino
A gathering of policy leaders, tech industry experts and private investors concluded Friday after two days of presentations and discussions about the needs and opportunities presented by emerging high-speed internet across the circumpolar north.
Participants learned the latest about the Quintillion Subsea Cable Project, of which the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation is a minority partner, as well as new satellite technology that will compliment the subsea fiber optic broadband.
"I'm incredibly grateful to the many experts and presenters who came all the way to Alaska to join us for the summit," said Tara Sweeney, who serves as chair of the Arctic Economic Council as well as executive vice president of external affairs for ASRC. "They've been able to see firsthand the many challenges we experience in the Arctic and the importance of using broadband as a tool to bring opportunities to the north — like educational, health and economic growth benefits. Improved connectivity capacity is a problem all too common in many parts of the Arctic, and I'm pleased that industry leaders are committed to helping us find solutions."
Some 40 speakers traveling to Barrow from as far away as Finland participated in the summit, which was organized by the Arctic Economic Council and its telecommunications working group.
Sweeney told participants that the 4 million people living in the Arctic region are an untapped resource within the tech industry.
"Our goal was to hold the Summit in Barrow to show you first hand while a vast majority of communities across the world enjoy the benefits and opportunities that come with high-speed internet like broadband, there are villages across the North Slope and across the Arctic that are still waiting for their local technologies to catch up," she said.
Robert McDowell, the former FCC commissioner and chair of the Arctic Economic Council Telecom Working Group, said that in coming months, the community of Barrow will be plugged into an "amazing global pipe."
"So, in a way, Barrow's internet connectivity, or the North Slope Borough in general, has sort of been in last place," McDowell noted. "You're going to go from worst to first overnight, literally."