Northern Alaska has been grappling with a severe communication crisis for over a week after a fiber-optic cable in the Arctic Ocean was severed by ice on June 11, leaving several communities in the region without internet and cellular service. The cable, which is crucial for connecting most of Northwest Alaska, is owned by Quintillion, an Alaska-based company which estimates that the repairs will take approximately two months to complete. The company says that the cable was cut by an “ice scouring event.” Ice scouring is a natural phenomenon in which icebergs scrape along the bottom of the sea floor.
The impact of this break has disrupted the daily lives of thousands of people living in communities situated above the Arctic circle, including essential emergency services. Some people could not even make 911 calls, according to local officials. Nome, Kotzebue, Point Hope, Wainwright, Utqiagvik, Atqasuk, and Nuiqsut are among the areas that have been significantly affected. The North Slope Borough, in response to the fiber break, issued an emergency declaration expressing concerns about the severe implications on their ability to provide vital services such as search and rescue operations, police assistance, firefighting, and utilities.
Recognizing the urgent need for connectivity restoration, the Starlink team from SpaceX has stepped in to support Alaska. SpaceX announced their collaboration with local governments in coordinating efforts to provide connectivity to the most affected areas. Their intervention brings hope to the distressed residents and aims to alleviate the adverse consequences of the communication outage. “After ice severed a fiber optic cable in the Arctic Ocean, cutting internet & cell service across Northern Alaska, the Starlink team has been coordinating with the State of Alaska, various local governments & Native communities to help provide connectivity where it’s needed most,” said the Starlink team via Twitter.
PSA for the baby moose in Alaska, Starlink is not edible 🛰️— Starlink (@Starlink) June 23, 2023
The communications outage situation underscores the vital role of stable and reliable communication infrastructure in remote icy regions, especially during emergencies. SpaceX’s Starlink satellite service has demonstrated it is reliable and easy to deploy. To access the internet, users simply connect the phased-array dish antenna and Wi-Fi router to an electricity source to wirelessly connect devices to the internet. Starlink is also a more cost-effective option to access the internet, compared to subsea fiber-optic infrastructures. The U.S. government issued a federal grant valued at $89 million to Quintillion to rebuild the damaged subsea fiber-optic cable network in the Arctic. For perspective, a Starlink kit to access the Low Earth Orbit satellite internet service costs $599 USD with a monthly subscription of around $120 USD. One Starlink Wi-Fi router can accommodate 128 devices simultaneously. Read more – Tech Lifeline: Good Samaritan's offer of SpaceX Starlink enables parents to call police for help in finding missing Child in the wilderness
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Featured Image Source: SpaceX Starlink via Twitter - Kelsey Morgan
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.