Statewide Broadband Task Force
Thursday, November 17, 2011, 9AM-12PM
Kahtnu Room 1, Dena’ina Convention Center
600 West 7th Avenue, Anchorage
In Attendance: Mike Baker, Chris Brown, Roberta Graham, Robert Whicker, Bill Popp, Jeff
Tucker, Joseph Davis, Maureen Moore
By Teleconference: John Boucher, Jim Kohler
Excused: Larry Bell, Rich Gazaway, Dave Goggins, Renee Johnson, Karl Kowalski, Stephanie
Morton, Myron Naneng, Sr., Rep Joe Paskvan, Mike Robinson, Mike Todd, Rep Bob Herron
Guests: Jim Nordlund/USDA, Lance Ahern/Alaska Wireless Broadband, Sue Sherif/Alaska State
Library (OWL Project), Shane Southwick/Alaska State Library (OWL Project), Heather
Hudson/ISER, Rob Earl/Rep. Herron’s office,
Guests by Teleconference: Don Pomphrey/Northwest Tel, Matt LeVeque/Alaska Dep. Dir.,
State Troopers, Kim Van Wyhe/Rep Herron’s Office, Jean Trainor/Rep. Guttenberg’s office
Chairman’s Opening Comments: Chairman Popp apologized for late start due to technology
issues. He welcomed the group and called the meeting to order at 9: 24.
Public Comments: Chairman Popp asked for public comment.
- Sue Sherif of the Alaska State Library OWL Project spoke. She explained what the OWL
Project is and offered their support on rural access, and was asked to work with Joseph
Davis his subcommittee.
- Lance Ahern of Alaska Wireless Broadband spoke. He explained that Alaska Wireless
Broadband is a nonprofit working to provide 100 percent wireless coverage for
Anchorage, and hopes to partner with carrier organizations to get the word out about
Chairman Popp offered that members of the public present at the meeting should go to the
various working groups to make the most expedient use of their talents.
Robbie Graham requested an update from Jim Kohler about USF reform. Jim Kohler discussed
the FCC’s adoption of universal coverage and spoke about rumors regarding updates to the
policy, but the current document is a short summary that only raises more questions.
Chairman Popp requested latitude in shifting items on the agenda to accommodate the
presentation that was schedule by teleconference. Connect Alaska was asked to present next.
- Therese Dolan of Connect Alaska announced that Connected Nation had hired a new
Program Manager, Jim Dunn. His resume was provided to Task Force members.
- She presented the results of the latest residential adoption survey and noted that the
overall adoption rate had decreased across the state. This might be due to the slumping
economy and resulting switches to consolidated mobile phone/internet service.
Additionally, cost seems to be the main barrier to people signing up for services.
- Therese Dolan introduced a draft of a mini-field survey that will be used along with a
simplified assessment workbook in the community engagement program. She
mentioned possible methods of distribution for the survey (website, community
meetings, newspaper inserts, through ARDORs, etc.) and requested feedback and input
from task force members. Chairman Popp suggested the new project manager reach
out to rural ARDORs regarding the survey.
Meeting Minutes: Chairman Popp asked if there were any issues with the minutes from
October’s meeting. Maureen Moore requested a clarification regarding GCI cosponsoring a
survey. Robbie Graham moved to amend the minutes to read that during a separate meeting
Krag Johnson had expressed interest in GCI co-sponsoring a survey in the Terra Southwest area.
The amendment passed and the minutes were approved.
Streamlining the Task Force Process: Chairman Popp raised concerns about getting the Task
Force process moving, as the original plan was to go forward by next spring. He proposed a
more streamlined process:
- The Task Force would not meet as a full entity again until next February. Instead,
teleconferences for working group leaders would be held to discuss progress reports.
He proposed an aggressive schedule of teleconferences every three weeks or so, with
the intent being to get the process moving.
- The working groups would drive information out of their groups to give to a technical
writer to draft the framework of the final report. This would give the Task Force
something to start looking at. It would help the Task Force get ahead of information
gaps and knowledge shortcomings, as well as know what research is necessary, perhaps
to be implemented by January. He wants to have a draft to pull apart and put back
together by April.
- This would turn the Task Force into an oversight group that comes together as drafts are
finalized and can work on the higher level thinking necessary to make changes.
- Robbie Graham was in favor of this streamlining. She said it would help the research
- Joseph Davis agreed, but recommended teleconferences every two weeks instead of
three, and Chairman Popp agreed. He hopes to keep the updates brief, to thirty
minutes or so.
- Chairman Popp also expressed an interest in setting up a drop box system ASAP and
reiterated that short, constant meetings would make better use of everyone’s time. He
added that this would also allow outside entities to have better direction regarding who
to work with.
- Joseph Davis said this would empower group chairs to have responsibility to get things
done. Chairman Popp noted that teleconferences would be driven by the availability of
group chairs, and that anyone else who participated would be driven by personal
- Chairman Popp asked for objections.
- John Boucher said that Rich Gazaway wasn’t there and so he was acting in his place; he
suggested Chairman Popp have a conversation with Gazaway when he returns. John
Boucher asked Chairman Popp if he could give the report earlier than noted on the
agenda as he had another meeting to attend. The Chairman agreed.
Task Force Subcommittee Discussions
- John Boucher stated that he and Rich Gazaway met with Krag Johnsen, the manager of
the GCI TERRA project. John Boucher discussed barriers the project encountered.
- He envisions being able to put together a matrix of entities and barriers to try and
outline the different problems that might be encountered during similar projects. He
gave examples of barriers to completion that were encountered at the federal, state,
and local levels.
- According to Krag Johnson, about 10 percent of total project costs were related to
regulatory activities – almost $9 million for the $80 million cost. He said that though GCI
is careful in its word use, it looks forward to similar projects, and that more effort to put
together a picture of regulatory issues would be useful.
- Chairman Popp thanked John Boucher for his report and said the working group is
headed in the right direction. He offered his help in reaching out to new entrants into
the market and offered to introduce the working group to the Verizon technical team.
- John Boucher said he would like someone who can put together all the various notes
and pieces, and Chairman Popp put forth the idea of a technical writer for each group.
- Chairman Popp said this was a good example of how teleconference updates would
- Robbie Graham (Group 1) reported that she spoke with Dr. Scott Rupp of the UAF SNAP
(Scenarios Networking for Alaska Planning) project, which looks at scenarios for future
conditions in Alaska.
- She has asked SNAP to do some modeling that takes into account discussions the other
groups are having and to look at the economic benefits of higher broadband in Alaska to
begin getting a model in place.
- She is meeting with SNAP Director Rupp and Karl Kowalski next Tuesday.
- Chris Brown said he received all the input needed to model the current state of affairs
for middle and last mile. All carriers have provided information for the middle mile, and
discussed the next steps to take, including developing models.
- He discussed TERRA Northwest, and noted that he expected economic realities to force
the project to take a more pragmatic view.
- He noted that a model would be based on the cost and not the benefit side.
- Joseph Davis (Group 2) said that a rough draft of potential questions is ready. The
questions are more of a conversation than of a technical nature. He said the idea was to
try and appeal to the IT support of the Native governments and to the people directly in
the community for a more practical, basic approach.
- He said they need to work on phrasing the questions in more neutral terms.
- The next thing to focus on is building a list of how to get the questions to people in
different arenas of rural communities (healthcare, etc.). He also noted that there are
areas in urban Alaska with poor coverage and wanted to make sure they were included.
Chairman’s closing of Subcommittee discussion
- Chairman Popp said this was a good basis to start. He stated his intent to have a
teleconference with the working group chairs immediately after Thanksgiving, with the
goal of explicating the work and couching the needs for research in as cognizant a way
as possible. He raised the issue of how to parse the technical writers.
- Chairman Popp said that the needs for gathering survey data, economic research, etc.,
should be figured out for the next meeting.
- He noted that issues would flow through Robbie Graham to stay on top of the spending
processes, and that needs would be done in partnership with Jim Dunn.
- Graham noted that since the Task Force won’t meet again until February they will need
to ensure the fund allocation can be done
- Chairman Popp discussed the legalities of the voting process by the Task Force and
stated it would be done by telephone not email.
Telecom Infrastructure Presentation from Don Pumphrey, VP of Information & Technology
Management for Northwestel
- Chairman Popp introduced Don Pumphrey to the Task Force. He is based in Whitehorse
in the Yukon Territory, with 120,000 Canadians in rural areas as constituents. He
explained the focus of his presentation would be on a proposed US-Canada fiber
- Don Pumphrey explained that telecom infrastructure is a key enabler for the North, but
is not always taken into consideration. It connects the North with the South, and
eliminates distances and creates competitive advantages.
- Telecom networks impact economics. Massive cellular telecom infrastructure can have a
massive impact, for example, but a lack of connectivity can be a barrier to things like
- He noted there are opportunities to strengthen network diversity in Canada and the US,
and that natural synergies in infrastructure already exist; these can be leveraged in
existing transportation corridors. Opportunities should be considered on a regional and
- The proposed fiber ring would connect Canada with the Southeast Alaskan network, and
that there would need to be a line from Whitehorse into Skagway and underwater
cables from Juneau to Skagway.
- A gap exists along the Alaska Highway connecting Alaska to Canadian networks, as well
as the Whitehorse-Juneau/Skagway gap. There is an opportunity to connect at Prince
Rupert and go down to the Lower 48.
- There are more options than just what Northwestel is proposing, but Pumphrey argued
this would be the most cost-effective proposal.
- He noted that there are regional opportunities between the Yukon and the Northwest
Territories; he noted a Mackenzie Valley proposal and reiterated there are lots of
proposed opportunities for robust networks.
- Don Pumphrey also discussed the proposed undersea cable from Yellowknife that,
though not for the Task Force to consider, highlights the opportunities he discussed and
is a good example of what the company is doing.
- He closed by discussing the dialogue he wants to create:
o Are there public-private partnerships that can be used to advance this vision,
similar to what they’ve done before with the Yukon Territories government?
o Are there funding models in place for these kinds of international/interregional
- Robbie Graham thanked Mr. Pumphrey for the presentation and offered that Tourism
North is one of the oldest and strongest regional public-private partnerships, which
helps establish history and precedent for this sort of thing. She asked:
o 1) Have they sought any funding for construction or lease of the portion in the
first map, Whitehorse and Juneau?
o 2) There was a previous presentation on Arctic Link, which discussed laying
cables from Singapore through to the Arctic, the Canadian Arctic, and through to
London. Have there been any conversations about that?
- Don Pumphrey responded:
o There have been conversations with the Yukon Territory government and
Ottowan government to pull together a total plan. They could probably create
interest in funding from the Canadian side, but would need a US investor with
assets. Since they’re dealing with international jurisdictions, they would need to
pull together people to view a “total” package.
o There have been many conversations with the Arctic Link team to provide
connection points through the Northwest Passage and to provide access along
the Canadian coastline. But this would require quite an investment to create a
ring from the Arctic Link side.
- Chris Brown asked about structural subsidies for broadband for carriers, either
provincially or nationally. Mr. Pumphrey responded that not a lot of funding is created
for backhaul capabilities, such as fiber-optics or satellites. It would depend on how a
program is being structured in Canada, but to date there is not a lot of infrastructure
funding in broadband for backhaul. Chris Brown said that it is similar in Alaska but
different in the lower forty-eight, and asked if there is a minimal acceptable broadband
connection in rural areas? Don Pumphrey stated that it had previously been 1MG as a
base, and anyone applying for funding would have to provide that.
- Chairman Popp said that the Task Force is not ready to answer his questions as far as
any policy recommendations, but this has stirred the debate and thinking among them.
He said their intention is to develop and propose a broadband plan for the governor in
late spring, and that though Don came to the Task Force at the right time, they won’t
have good answers yet and it will be next year before the state develops a policy.
- Don Pumphrey thanked the Task Force for giving him the opportunity to speak to them
and offered to continue the conversation. Chairman Popp believed a dialogue would be
Chairman’s Closing Remarks:
Chairman Popp said he needs to have a conversation with Rich Gazaway before setting up the
first conference call with committee chairs, but wants to attempt it before November 30th.
Robbie Graham asked for a reiteration of the teleconference’s purpose:
- Chairman Popp said they’re for short, to-the-point discussions of the subcommittee
- He also wants to be able to include Jim Dunn, Connect Alaska.
Chairman Popp asked for any other questions. He proposed February 22, 2012 for the next
Task Force meeting, noting that it was tentative but wanted a date for people to put on their
calendars. He stated his intention to hold the meeting at the AEDC Board Room, from 9AM-
12PM. He reiterated that breaking down the whole Task Force would make it more efficient.
He also noted the proposed meeting date would coincide with the Alaska Society for
Technology in Education conference, which would make for a “target-rich” environment.
Robbie Graham asked about the hiring process for technical writers, and Chairman Popp asked
Therese Dolan for a previous presentation about the process. Jeff Tucker asked about other
“target-rich” environments/conferences for the working groups to access. Therese Dolan
offered to research and put together a list of conferences and events for the working groups to
attend. Chairman Popp asked members let everyone know if they hear of any such
Adjourned: The meeting adjourned at 10:48AM.