Friday, February 22, 2013

Uphill Funding Battle for Gustavus Capital Projects

As you may have read in the Fairweather Reporter, the Gustavus City Council has submitted four capital projects to the Alaska legislature. The total amount sought is just under $3.4 million, with the total cost for each project ranging from $70,000 to $2.4 million. Funding for for approved projects (if any) will become available shortly after July 1, the start of the state's fiscal year 2014. We will not know for certain whether projects are funded until sometime in May at the earliest.
You may also have heard that FY14 is going to be a tough year to get funding for state capital projects. On February 21, as manager of one of the projects, I joined council members Noel Farevaag, Jim Mackovjak, and Morgan DeBoer in a 20-minute teleconference with our Senator, Dennis Egan, our representative, Beth Kerttula, and members of their staffs to brief them on the city's capital requests. They were cordial and interested, and promised to do what they could, but warned us not to expect too much in this funding environment; they have received far more in capital requests then they will be able to fund.
So if any or all of the city's capital requests are important to you or your neighbors, you and they might want to contact Egan and Kerttula immediately  to let them know what projects are important to you and why. It sounds like decisions are being made in the next hours or days regarding what projects will make it into the state's capital budget, so now is the time to act if you care.
  • You can review the city's submissions here: 
  • Short messages that convey how the projects will affect you are the most effective.
  • I suggest we all keep our messages positive, unless you really don't want to see any  of the projects funded. It's fine to explain why a given project is your personal top priority, but if people start sniping at projects they don't necessarily favor, I expect all will be rejected.
  • Contacts: Dennis Egan and Beth Kerttula. Given the short times involved, phone calls, e-mails, and faxes will be better than letters via snail mail.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Gustavus Broadband Progress

Things are looking up again for better Internet access for Gustavus residents.

ACS Wireless Upgrade

ACS has upgraded their wireless Internet service to 3G. Now those within range can get download speeds of 500-800 kilobits/sec with higher bursts. This performance is similar to GCN broadband, but is available to many more Gustavus residents. I have heard reports that, with the repeater unit, reception is better than for cell phones, so even if your cell phone does not work at home the wireless Internet service might. Prices are reasonable, from $30-$80/month depending on the data plan chosen and maybe whether it is bundled with voice service. AT&T has not yet upgraded their cellular service in Gustavus, so it continues to deliver dial-up speeds. Other providers like Sprint and Verizon roam through either ACS or AT&T but I do not know which. Details from ACS...

Broadband Plan

Both GCN broadband and ACS 3G service barely qualify as "broadband" today, and the same is true of satellite service from HughesNet and StarBand. gives all of these a grade of "F." So we need not and should not be satisfied with our current options.
Last October, Gustavus voters voted down a $150,000 wireless broadband network proposal to be funded from the Gustavus Endowment Fund. But in July the State of Alaska granted $235,000 to the City of Gustavus to plan and design a model last-mile community broadband network. The grant will not actually build anything, but it will result in a detailed, funding-ready, well-justified and engineered plan and design that we can use to seek funding for construction in the winter of 2013-2014. That planning effort is now underway, and you can learn all about it and get involved and subscribe to updates by visiting the project's web site.
So we have a new option to keep us connected in the short term, and a concerted effort is underway to plan for the long term.

Monday, March 28, 2011

GCN: Over The Hump

After several years teetering on the brink of dissolution, GCN is alive and better than ever, but community-wide broadband is still years away. The answer to the question "whither GCN" that I posted this fall remains unanswered -- all options are still on the table. But it does appear that GCN has achieved sustainability. For the first time in its history it will not depend on volunteers for its basic operations, so we have some breathing room. GCN will continue to operate and incrementally expand broadband coverage while considering the long-term future of Internet access in our community.

For full details, see my 2011 State of the Net Report.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Whither GCN?

The future of broadband Internet access and the Gustavus Community Network (GCN) looks bleak this fall.

  • In May I gave the city council notice that I will continue volunteer maintenance and operations for the community network only through June 30, 2011. Sixteen years is enough, and I know maintenance and operations will never be professionalized unless and until I quit volunteering.
  • Ballot measure 1, which would have lent up to $150,000 from the Gustavus endowment fund to build a community-wide broadband network, failed to gain the two-thirds majority vote needed to pass.
  • Rivada-Sea Lion's $60 million broadband stimulus grant application for a wireless network that would serve Gustavus and other communities throughout Southeast Alaska was denied.

Will GCN remain a city-owned public utility, and if so how will it pay for maintenance and operations next fiscal year, much less expand broadband coverage to the entire community?

Or will GCN be privatized and if so, can an operator be found and on what terms, and how will that affect service and prices?

Or will GCN simply cease to exist, and how will that affect the 79 Gustavus households it currently serves?

These are questions the GCN committee will be considering this fall.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happiness Is...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

My first blog

It's sort of embarrassing for a techno-geek like me to be such a latecomer to the blogging world. I just don't have much to say here yet. I actually activated my blogger account so I could use my Google account as an OpenID.
If you want to know more you'll just have to visit my web site.