Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205

01/27/2017 08:00 AM EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
08:00:07 AM Start
08:00:44 AM Presentation: Increasing Broadband Access and Capacity for Rural Areas
09:30:57 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Increasing Broadband Access and Capacity for TELECONFERENCED
Rural Schools
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE EDUCATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                        January 27, 2017                                                                                        
                           8:00 a.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Shelley Hughes, Chair                                                                                                   
Senator Gary Stevens                                                                                                            
Senator Cathy Giessel                                                                                                           
Senator John Coghill                                                                                                            
Senator Tom Begich                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
PRESENTATION: INCREASING BROADBAND ACCESS AND CAPACITY FOR RURAL                                                                
AREAS                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
TINA PIDGEON, Senior Vice President/General Counsel                                                                             
GCI                                                                                                                             
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION   STATEMENT:   Presented   information   about   network                                                             
capabilities in Alaska.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MICHAEL BURKE, CEO                                                                                                              
Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA)                                                                                           
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Provided information about broadband in                                                                   
Alaska.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
KRISTINA WOOLSTON, Vice President                                                                                               
External Relations                                                                                                              
Quintillion                                                                                                                     
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION  STATEMENT:  Presented   information  on  the  broadband                                                             
capabilities Quintillion provides.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
HEATHER CAVANAUGH, Director of Communications                                                                                   
Alaska Communications (AC)                                                                                                      
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented  information regarding broadband in                                                             
Alaska.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
COLIN UNDERWOOD, Program Manager                                                                                                
Alaska Communications (AC)                                                                                                      
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented  information regarding broadband in                                                             
Alaska.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHRISTINE O'CONNOR, Director                                                                                                    
Alaska Telephone Association (ATA)                                                                                              
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Presented ATA's Alaska Plan.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                              
8:00:07 AM                                                                                                                  
CHAIR  SHELLEY  HUGHES  called   the  Senate  Education  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 8:00  a.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order were  Senators Begich, Giessel, Coghill,  and Chair Hughes.                                                               
Senator Stevens arrived shortly thereafter.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
^PRESENTATION:  INCREASING  BROADBAND  ACCESS  AND  CAPACITY  FOR                                                               
RURAL AREAS                                                                                                                     
 PRESENTATION: INCREASING BROADBAND ACCESS AND CAPACITY FOR RURAL                                                           
                             AREAS                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
8:00:44 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES announced  that the only order of  business would be                                                               
a presentation  on Increasing Broadband  Access and  Capacity for                                                               
Rural  Areas.  She  said  a   number  of  organizations  will  be                                                               
addressing the current status and  plans for future expansion and                                                               
costs of broadband in Alaska. She listed the presenters.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
8:02:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES  stated that the  committee will be having  a series                                                               
of exploratory  hearings on "What  we can do  to do a  better job                                                               
for  students." The  committee will  be  addressing the  question                                                               
whether the  state can do a  better job of improving  the quality                                                               
of education. She suggested by  levering technology the state may                                                               
be  able  to save  money  while  improving education.  She  asked                                                               
whether the  state could do  something differently that  would be                                                               
better, such as increasing  opportunities for students, improving                                                               
the outcomes, and improving graduation  rates. Today's hearing is                                                               
the  first step  toward that  goal. She  stressed that  she would                                                               
like communities,  parents, students, and schools  to be involved                                                               
and be a part of the conversation.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:04:04 AM                                                                                                                    
TINA  PIDGEON,   Senior  Vice  President/General   Counsel,  GCI,                                                               
presented information  about network capabilities in  Alaska. She                                                               
began  by  stating  that for  GCI,  providing  broadband  network                                                               
statewide is a priority. She  said GCI is continually looking for                                                               
ways  to advance  and improve  broadband capability  and capacity                                                               
across the state  and deliver better services  to all communities                                                               
and customers through innovation and progress.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
8:05:58 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  PIDGEON  showed  a  map of  Alaska  that  depicts  statewide                                                               
service  capabilities  of  many   providers,  both  existing  and                                                               
planned  through   2017.  The  map   shows  different   types  of                                                               
technology  available.  There  are  three  technologies  used  to                                                               
deliver   broadband   from   an  internet   point   of   presence                                                               
distribution;  fiber, microwave,  and satellite.  In some  cases,                                                               
there  are several  ways of  delivering broadband  to communities                                                               
and  in  other cases,  only  satellite  is available.  Everywhere                                                               
there  is a  community, satellites  have the  ability to  deliver                                                               
broadband  services.  Video  teleconferencing  can  be  delivered                                                               
successfully over satellite to all communities.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
She noted that  fiber locations have typically  been available to                                                               
communities  on the  road system.  That  is changing  and in  the                                                               
northern  part  of   Alaska  the  fiber  is   being  deployed  by                                                               
Quintillion's subsea cable systems.  Fiber has the greatest speed                                                               
and capacity available and opportunity  for growth and expansion.                                                               
Microwave services can  provide the same speed,  but the capacity                                                               
is somewhat  more limited. There  must be a full  hardware change                                                               
out  in  order to  expand  and  it  can  be more  expensive.  The                                                               
technology selection has as much to  do with geology as with cost                                                               
characteristics.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
She related  that satellite services  are relevant  for providing                                                               
continued  services  and there  have  been  many advancements  in                                                               
traffic management,  however there are some  limitations, such as                                                               
latency.  As broadband  applications  advance, fewer  communities                                                               
rely on satellite  because some applications are  not designed to                                                               
overcome  latency.   She  explained  the  ways   latency  can  be                                                               
resolved, such  as by caching. She  pointed out that there  are a                                                               
number of satellite projects globally  that are underway and have                                                               
promise in the future.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
8:12:39 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. PIDGEON addressed how schools are  able to use broadband as a                                                               
tool in the classroom, such  as to report and amplify instruction                                                               
and to  provide access to  new information. Distant  learning and                                                               
video teleconferencing  are widely used.  She gave an  example of                                                               
the  Lower Kuskokwim  School District  making good  use of  video                                                               
teleconferencing. She  noted schools have invested  in devices to                                                               
meet on-line  testing mandates, duel  enrollment for  high school                                                               
and  college  courses,  learning management  systems,  and  video                                                               
conferencing. All  of these broadband applications  are available                                                               
using all  technologies. Schools in  a satellite area  might have                                                               
to take extra  steps in terms of prioritizing the  traffic or how                                                               
they utilize the applications.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
8:14:30 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  PIDGEON pointed  out that  broadband is  facilitating school                                                               
business outside  the classroom,  such as  for social  media, for                                                               
training,   sharing   report   card  information,   and   holding                                                               
districtwide  meetings. Districts  are  also  investing in  Wi-Fi                                                               
capabilities to  replace hard  wiring, which  is more  costly and                                                               
easier to upgrade.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:15:53 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES noted the arrival of Senator Stevens.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:16:04 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. PIDGEON continued  with how the "cloud"  provides services by                                                               
storing and managing data off  site. It provides greater security                                                               
options and additional  IT support. It is another  way of getting                                                               
out  of having  multiple hardware  services in  house. The  Cloud                                                               
could affect and improve energy usage, also.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  PIDGEON concluded  that there  are  many opportunities  that                                                               
exist today and  more on the horizon. She said  GCI does have the                                                               
network capability  to access and provision  those opportunities.                                                               
She offered to answer questions.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
8:18:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES thanked Ms. Pidgeon.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
8:18:17 AM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL  BURKE,  CEO,   Matanuska  Telephone  Association  (MTA),                                                               
provided information  about broadband  in Alaska. He  stated that                                                               
MTA has  a high  priority to  provide service  to schools  in its                                                               
region. MTA  is a consumer-owned  co-op of about  29,000 members.                                                               
He listed the three school  systems in their service area: Mat-Su                                                               
School District, Eagle-River/Chugiak  School District, and Tyonek                                                               
School, a  part of the  Kenai Peninsula School District.  He said                                                               
MTA is  committed to providing  fast broadband to all  schools in                                                               
the  area. They  have constructed  fiber optic  cable to  all but                                                               
Tyonek School,  which is served  by microwave. He added  that MTA                                                               
is  actively working  on school  curriculum assistance.  He noted                                                               
the  former Mat-Su  superintendent emphasized  the importance  of                                                               
technology in  schools. He gave examples  of how MTA worked  on a                                                               
middle school computer coding class.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
He stressed the importance of  the connectivity MTA provides, not                                                               
just  in the  classroom, but  after school  for internet  access.                                                               
There  are  still some  areas  that  have  yet to  get  broadband                                                               
connectivity.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
He  spoke of  federal regulations  that  hamper MTA,  as well  as                                                               
regulatory  changes  by  the  Federal  Communications  Commission                                                               
(FCC)   that  interfered   with  infrastructure   investment  and                                                               
delivery. He mentioned a future fiber optic cable project.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. BURKE related  that schools need faster  and better broadband                                                               
to function as  modern schools. He concluded that MTA  has a role                                                               
of  assuring  that schools  move  into  the modern  century  with                                                               
technology access. He offered to answer questions.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:25:35 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES thanked Mr. Burke.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
8:26:19 AM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:26:43 AM                                                                                                                    
KRISTINA   WOOLSTON,   Vice    President,   External   Relations,                                                               
Quintillion, presented information  on the broadband capabilities                                                               
Quintillion provides. She said Quintillion  is based in Anchorage                                                               
and is  building a  multi-phase fiber  optic cable  network along                                                               
the northern  coast of  Alaska and around  the Prudhoe  Bay area.                                                               
She pointed  out that Quintillion  is a private  operator selling                                                               
wholesale  capacity  to  telecom   service  providers  and  whose                                                               
capacity  is  available  to  all   service  providers.  They  are                                                               
privately funded and  deploying fiber that deliver  50 percent to                                                               
90 percent reductions for  wholesale, dedicated capacity compared                                                               
to current backhaul operations, such as satellite and microwave.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS.  WOOLSTON  focused  on  Alaska   projects  in  their  planned                                                               
network. She  said they  are deploying  a terrestrial  fiber from                                                               
Fairbanks  to  Prudhoe Bay  and  communities  along the  way.  At                                                               
Prudhoe  Bay the  fiber goes  subsea  along the  coast of  Alaska                                                               
delivering  services   to  communities   along  the   way.  Those                                                               
communities will come online in  2017. She noted they have worked                                                               
with  construction contractors  to provide  cable to  the Arctic,                                                               
which will  be online later  this year.  She noted the  design of                                                               
the  system  is  logical  and feasible.  She  described  how  the                                                               
Arctic-resilient system was built and described its capacity.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
8:32:06 AM                                                                                                                    
She spoke of  the challenges of being the  first Arctic provider.                                                               
The permitting  process has  been substantial.  It is  the second                                                               
year  of  marine installation.  She  concluded  that the  company                                                               
keeps in  mind what will  benefit communities and schools  and is                                                               
helping to  prepare students for  positions locally and  in other                                                               
places.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
She  spoke of  the  cost benefits  of  operating and  maintaining                                                               
fiber optic  cable, which are  lower over time than  microwave or                                                               
satellite. She  listed the benefits of  having unlimited capacity                                                               
with 10 million Mbps per fiber pair.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  WOOLSTON  concluded with  the  benefits  of fiber  to  rural                                                               
communities:   education,  health   care,  government,   economic                                                               
development, emergency response, public  safety, and for national                                                               
strategy areas  identified in  the President's  National Strategy                                                               
for the Arctic Region.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
8:35:29 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES  thanked Ms.  Woolston. She  noted the  timeline was                                                               
faster than most expected.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:36:05 AM                                                                                                                    
HEATHER   CAVANAUGH,    Director   of    Communications,   Alaska                                                               
Communications  (AC), presented  information regarding  broadband                                                               
in Alaska.  She shared  her background as  an Alaskan  and listed                                                               
the areas AC  serves. She spoke of the need  to connect broadband                                                               
to schools and noted the role  it plays in the economy. She spoke                                                               
of the  company's work  on improving  the broadband  structure in                                                               
Alaska.  She said  AC's purpose  is to  be a  partner for  Alaska                                                               
organizations  and  AC  needs  to  earn  the  trust  of  all  its                                                               
customers. She  related AC's responsibilities and  investments it                                                               
has made.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
She provided examples of partnerships  AC has been involved in to                                                               
deliver  broadband. She  reported that  last year  AC became  the                                                               
first Microsoft  partner to  offer Cloud  services in  Alaska and                                                               
the  only  Microsoft-certified  Gold  Education  Partner  in  the                                                               
state.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
8:40:20 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. CAVANAUGH discussed AC's core  network and listed its service                                                               
areas and  partnerships. She noted  AC offers  internet solutions                                                               
and gave  examples. She said  they are partners  with Quintillion                                                               
and she described their relationship.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
8:42:28 AM                                                                                                                    
COLIN  UNDERWOOD, Program  Manager,  Alaska Communications  (AC),                                                               
presented   information  regarding   broadband   in  Alaska.   He                                                               
described  his  personal  information  and  then  addressed  AC's                                                               
Education Rate  (E-rate) Program, which  makes telecommunications                                                               
and  information   services  more  affordable  for   schools  and                                                               
libraries in  America. He said  the E-rate program began  in 1996                                                               
and provides discounts  from 20 percent to  90 percent, depending                                                               
on an  area's poverty level  and location.  As of June  30, 2016,                                                               
Alaska has  received over  $500 million  in E-rate  support since                                                               
1998.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
He  described  AC's  projects  in   the  Kenai  Peninsula  School                                                               
District.  The E-rate  Program now  supports one-time  payment of                                                               
broadband infrastructure construction for rural communities.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
8:44:52 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES thanked the presenters.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
8:45:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CHRISTINE  O'CONNOR,   Director,  Alaska   Telephone  Association                                                               
(ATA),  presented ATA's  Alaska  Plan,  the foundational  funding                                                               
mechanism  for   rural  networks  in  Alaska.   The  Alaska  Plan                                                               
operates, upgrades,  and extends broadband development  in remote                                                               
Alaska. It supports improved and  new, both fixed or landline and                                                               
mobile  or  wireless broadband,  as  well  as voice  service.  It                                                               
increases broadband access, but  also sustains existing broadband                                                               
networks.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
8:46:36 AM                                                                                                                    
She  described  the  Universal  Service  Fund  (USF),  a  federal                                                               
program  to fund  broadband networks  in high  cost areas  of the                                                               
country.  She  noted  the  USF   has  been  crucial  to  Alaska's                                                               
networks.  In many  rural communities  there is  not an  economic                                                               
business  case for  broadband, but  with  USF funding,  providers                                                               
have been able  to build and operate broadband  networks and will                                                               
be expanding and  upgrading them over the ten-year  period of the                                                               
Alaska plan.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
8:47:10 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. O'CONNOR explained that federal  Universal Service Fund (USF)                                                               
reform  orders  in  2011  were  bad  for  Alaska.  Reform  had  a                                                               
disproportionate impact on  Alaska. By the end  of 2015, wireline                                                               
support  was  reduced  by  21  percent,  whereas  nationally  the                                                               
average reduction  was 2  percent. She  described how  the Alaska                                                               
Plan  was developed.  The FCC  finally  adopted it  in August  of                                                               
2016.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
8:48:18 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. O'CONNOR  related that the  Alaska Plan freezes  $150 million                                                               
in  existing USF  annual  funds for  broadband  service to  areas                                                               
outside of  major urban centers.  She stressed how  essential the                                                               
funding is to Alaska. She said  many of the rural networks depend                                                               
on  this  funding.  The  predictability of  the  Alaska  Plan  is                                                               
essential.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:49:49 AM                                                                                                                    
She turned to public interest  obligations. She described how the                                                               
Alaska Plan funds services in  remote Alaska, requires both voice                                                               
and  broadband  service,  supports  both  landline  and  wireless                                                               
service, and requires mandatory speeds.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
She   said  the   Alaska   Plan  introduces   a   new  level   of                                                               
accountability to USF in Alaska,  with new monitoring, reporting,                                                               
and  potential  penalties. The  FCC  is  particularly focused  on                                                               
mapping  locations  with  broadband service  and  monitoring  the                                                               
availability of "middle mile" -  [the network infrastructure that                                                               
connects  local  networks  to other  network  service  providers,                                                               
major  telecommunications carriers,  and  the greater  internet.]                                                               
Each  company  must  report  progress   annually  and  there  are                                                               
penalties for non-performance.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
8:51:18 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  O'CONNOR concluded  that  the Alaska  Plan  is an  essential                                                               
funding mechanism  which will both  operate and  deploy broadband                                                               
service to Alaska's communities in  rural areas over the next ten                                                               
years. It  brings stability that  is essential when  investing in                                                               
broadband structure.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  HUGHES thanked  Ms.  O'Connor and  opened  the meeting  to                                                               
questions.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:51:59 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GIESSEL  requested clarification from Ms.  O'Connor about                                                               
the cost to schools by various service providers.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS.  O'CONNOR  explained  that  the  cost would  be  set  by  the                                                               
providers.  The  Alaska  Plan  is  the  underlying  funding  that                                                               
companies use to  operate and deploy the  networks. The companies                                                               
would use the  E-rate Program requirements to  determine the cost                                                               
for schools.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR GIESSEL  asked about FCC  overseeing penalties  for goals                                                               
not  met. She  asked if  there is  a state  agency that  also has                                                               
oversight.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. O'CONNOR  replied that there  is dual oversight; the  FCC has                                                               
an  Educational  Tax  Credit  (ETC)  designation  which  involves                                                               
oversite also by  the Regulator Commission of  Alaska (RCA). Each                                                               
company submits  reports to the  FCC, as well  as to the  RCA who                                                               
reviews the reports and certifies  them, sending them back to the                                                               
FCC. RCA and FCC have a partnership review.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:54:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  GIESSEL  asked  about   installing  undersea  cable  and                                                               
whether an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed first.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
8:54:30 AM                                                                                                                    
KRISTINA  WOOLSTON explained  the permit  process which  does not                                                               
include an  EIS. She listed  the FCC and DOT  permits Quintillion                                                               
had to go through.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:55:17 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS inquired  how  funding  predictability from  the                                                               
federal government for 30 to 40 years can be assured.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. UNDERWOOD  said there are  no guaranteed funding  sources. He                                                               
opined the state should make use of what is available now.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  STEVENS  thought the  more  important  question is  what                                                               
Alaska's needs  are. The  majority of expenses  are picked  up by                                                               
the  federal government  and  he  looked to  a  future time  when                                                               
Alaska would not need federal funds.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. UNDERWOOD had no comment.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
8:57:09 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES  asked  what  would   be  a  realistic  window  for                                                               
completing an E-rate project.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. UNDERWOOD said two to five years.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
8:57:40 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. PIDGEON  added that  there is  a multi-dimensional  answer to                                                               
the  question.  It is  difficult  to  expect  the same  level  of                                                               
funding,  and  combinations of  funding  sources  will always  be                                                               
available. Also,  the demand continues  to grow, and the  pace of                                                               
growth is  underestimated. The state  must find ways to  meet the                                                               
demand  for  broadband the  best  it  can.  The providers  use  a                                                               
combination of the  funding streams that are  available, but also                                                               
look  at  improved  technology to  improve  the  efficiencies  in                                                               
service for cost  savings. As the demand grows it  makes sense to                                                               
invest in terrestrial capacity, both fiber and microwave.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:00:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES asked off-net presenters to respond.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
9:00:15 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  O'CONNOR said  ATA is  looking forward  to working  with the                                                               
larger  world industry  to see  what happens  after ten  years in                                                               
order to  make changes  to the universal  service fund.  They are                                                               
also  exploring technology  changes, such  as improved  satellite                                                               
technology. She  noted there is  incremental progress  being made                                                               
in state on on-going projects  to connect more rural communities.                                                               
She  predicted that  would continue  over the  next few  years to                                                               
advance broadband.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  HUGHES   asked  if  the  new   federal  administration  is                                                               
interested in improved telecommunication infrastructure.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:02:16 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. BURKE  said he  has heard  there may  be funding  proposed by                                                               
Congress for broadband expansion, but  it is in the early stages.                                                               
He  suggested that  the  state should  advocate  for funding  and                                                               
investment in  the "Last  File" -  the distribution  of broadband                                                               
services to  consumers. There  is still  a big  need to  fund the                                                               
"middle mile"  which has extremely  high costs ranging  from $1.5                                                               
billion to  $2 billion. Additional federal  funding would greatly                                                               
help.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
He stressed the need for  continuous education, partnerships, and                                                               
dialogue with  the FCC  on Alaska's policy  issues, so  the state                                                               
can make good decisions.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:05:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES focused  on rural  areas with  only satellite.  She                                                               
asked  if  there  are  any  villages  that  do  not  have  fiber,                                                               
microwave, or satellite.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:05:45 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  PIDGEON  stated that  every  community  has the  ability  to                                                               
access satellite, which has become more economical.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR HUGHES asked  if there are still some villages  that do not                                                               
have satellite.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. CAVANAUGH  offered to  provide a  list of  those that  do not                                                               
have broadband capability.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:07:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES wished to understand  about data caching and whether                                                               
only one classroom at a time can be served.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:08:12 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. PIDGEON explained  that to have a  non-HDVTC (High Definition                                                               
Video  Conferencing)   quality  connection  requires   about  1.2                                                               
Mbit/s. To enable an HD-quality  connection is about 2 Mbit/s. It                                                               
is not  a function  of whether  the service  is capable  of being                                                               
provided,  but rather  the cost  and how  much capacity  is being                                                               
purchased and provided in a  particular location. The question is                                                               
whether the capacity is available  in a particular community size                                                               
to  accommodate  both VTC  capability  and  any other  additional                                                               
broadband applications  running alongside. If it  is one session,                                                               
it is 1.2 to 2  Mbit/s; multiple education sessions running side-                                                               
by-side are additive on a point-to-point basis.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR HUGHES asked  how many communities have  enough capacity to                                                               
enable multiple sessions and how it effects their cost.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. PIDGEON  stated it  is costly.  The legislature  has provided                                                               
funding  over the  last  couple  of years  to  ensure that  every                                                               
school  district  is able  to  purchase  at  least 10  Mbit/s  of                                                               
capacity which  would enable a  match from FCC's  E-rate program.                                                               
She  did  not know  what  each  school  district is  doing.  Each                                                               
district determines how they allocate bandwidth.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:11:02 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. BURKE understood that the carrier  of last resort - AT&T - is                                                               
obligated  to  provide   a  Microgravity  Experiment  Recoverable                                                               
Satellite  (MERS)  station  to  every community  of  25  or  more                                                               
residents.  Broadband  capacity  can   be  ordered  through  that                                                               
connection.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  HUGHES  asked  about  new  technology  regarding  improved                                                               
satellite and  whether the state can  expect it within a  year or                                                               
two.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  PIDGEON  said  she  could  only guess  at  the  answer.  She                                                               
estimated it  would be a five-year  period of time. There  are no                                                               
fewer than five global projects  under discussion now. The volume                                                               
of discussion in  this area and the ability of  those projects to                                                               
meet the  demands and  economics for  services globally  makes it                                                               
much more possible for this  type of improved satellite delivery.                                                               
She noted an  on-going proceeding at the  FCC regarding licensing                                                               
of a  number of the  projects. She referred  to a map  that shows                                                               
the  connectivity  statewide in  2010  and  noted the  phenomenal                                                               
change in available infrastructure since then.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:14:19 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH referred  to the broadband grants.  He pointed out                                                               
that  having   access  does  not  necessarily   mean  the  school                                                               
districts  access the  services.  He inquired  if  there is  data                                                               
about  how  many school  districts  take  advantage of  broadband                                                               
services.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:15:07 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  PIDGEON  said  that   information  is  publically  available                                                               
through  the  Universal   Service  Administrative  Company  which                                                               
administers the  E-rate program,  but it does  not show  how much                                                               
bandwidth  is used,  only the  amount of  requested capacity  and                                                               
what is awarded and funded.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:15:53 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH  asked  about the  universal  service  charge  on                                                               
utility bills  and whether there is  an effort to retain  some of                                                               
that money for upgrades in the future.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:16:51 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. O'CONNOR explained  that money from the charge  does not have                                                               
a banking mechanism, but companies  structure their businesses to                                                               
assume responsibility for future upgrades beyond ten years.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR   BEGICH  asked   if  there   is  less   opportunity  for                                                               
interaction between  a student and  a teacher at  satellite cache                                                               
sites.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS.  PIDGEON  said  cache  sites are  not  good  for  interactive                                                               
education, such  as video-teleconferencing.  They are  useful for                                                               
running multiple applications at the same time.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:19:16 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH  asked  if every  provider  participates  in  the                                                               
Alaska Plan.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. CAVANAUGH  said AC  does not participate  in the  Alaska Plan                                                               
because  it falls  under a  different  regulatory structure.  She                                                               
said AC will receive $19.2  million from Connect America over the                                                               
next ten years to build  broadband structure, primarily along the                                                               
road and out to communities from there.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BEGICH   suggested  that  the  Lower   Kuskokwim  School                                                               
District present  on how  they use broadband  and Yukon  Flats or                                                               
Aleutians East present satellite use.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
He also  suggested considering  a $.50  universal service  fee to                                                               
protect long-term broadband investment.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:21:03 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES   responded  that   they  are  working   on  having                                                               
presentations  from school  districts.  She  summarized that  the                                                               
committee  wants   to  know  what   the  barriers   to  improving                                                               
technology  access  are.  She  wants to  see  schools  have  live                                                               
interaction  and  multiple  sessions.  She  requested  that  each                                                               
presenter respond.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
9:22:34 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  BURKE related  that he  would  direct the  committee to  the                                                               
Alaska Broadband  Task Force  for an analysis  of how  to provide                                                               
high  speed broadband  access to  all  Alaskan communities.  That                                                               
would include  replacing satellite  with microwave  and/or fiber.                                                               
He said  the cost  would be substantial,  around $1.2  billion or                                                               
more, and it would take years  to get there. There are design and                                                               
planning  issues, permitting  issues,  and  a short  construction                                                               
season.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:24:00 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. WOOLSTON said the FCC defined  broadband as having a speed of                                                               
25 Mbit/s or  higher. Having 100 Mbit/s per second  is a terrific                                                               
goal. She  shared Quintillion's excitement as  a company bringing                                                               
fiber  into  communities for  the  first  time. She  opined  that                                                               
encouraging and  enabling competition  in communities  will bring                                                               
the cost of services down.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:25:08 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. O'CONNOR  concurred with Mr.  Burke's comments  regarding the                                                               
Task Force. She added that  providers are working on new projects                                                               
that push  the edges. She agreed  that it will take  years and is                                                               
incremental, but they are working hard on it.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
9:25:42 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. CAVANAUGH  said it  is a  great challenge  to connect  all of                                                               
Alaska's rural and remote communities  with high speed broadband.                                                               
She concurred with Mr. Burke  and Ms. Woolston regarding the Task                                                               
Force.  A big  piece  is  to build  fiber  infrastructure to  the                                                               
"middle mile" network and is a serious challenge.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
9:26:30 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. UNDERWOOD noted  in 2010 the FCC released  a broadband report                                                               
which  recommended  about  one   megabit  per  student,  so  some                                                               
communities are  looking at more  than 100  Mbit/s. Affordability                                                               
is a  barrier for some  schools and some  are not able  to afford                                                               
that amount of broadband.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:27:22 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. PIDGEON noted  a common thread across the testimony  - a deep                                                               
desire to meet the needs  and demands in education. The challenge                                                               
is  that  it is  very  costly.  There  is  a lot  of  competition                                                               
nationally  for limited  resources.  She  suggested that  looking                                                               
ahead  at  the best  way  to  position the  state  is  to have  a                                                               
unified,   pragmatic,    and   realistic    approach.   Advancing                                                               
experiences  of success  and sharing  stories  about how  today's                                                               
funding is being put to good use is important.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:29:32 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES thanked  all the  presenters.  She maintained  that                                                               
there is much  the state can do with the  present structure, such                                                               
as using virtual classrooms. Kids  in classrooms now need greater                                                               
opportunities. She  noted several  school districts  already have                                                               
pockets of exciting activities.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:30:57 AM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair Hughes  adjourned the  Senate Education  Standing Committee                                                               
at 9:30 a.m.                                                                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
GCI_Senate Education_1_27-2017 Presentation Map 1.pdf SEDC 1/27/2017 8:00:00 AM
GCI_Senate_Education_1_27_2017_Presentation_Map 2.pdf SEDC 1/27/2017 8:00:00 AM
2017-01-27 Alaska Plan for Senate Education Cmte.pptx SEDC 1/27/2017 8:00:00 AM