FCC Commissioner to visit Unalaska during state broadband tour

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Flickr photo by Gage Skidmore)

A major player at the Federal Communications Commission is due in Unalaska.

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Commissioner Brendan Carr will arrive Monday night and spend about 24 hours on the island to learn about the broadband challenges facing rural Alaska.

The FCC regulates communications across the country — from radio and satellite to television and internet.

Brendan Carr joined the agency as a commissioner last summer, after the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment by President Donald Trump.

Since then, he’s helped the Republican-led FCC to repeal net neutrality protections and spearheaded a $100 million program to expand access to telemedicine.

Carr’s short trip to Unalaska, however, is expected to be educational rather than policy-driven.

“To get a feel for the place,” GCI Vice President Dan Boyette said. “I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that.”

Boyette said Carr will tour GCI’s local facilities, along with the island’s other providers, Optimera WiFi and TelAlaska.

“He’s a relatively new commissioner, and there are a lot of Alaska-based issues in front of the FCC at this point,” Boyette said. “I think he’s just looking to learn.”

Those issues include how to develop infrastructure in rural areas and how to manage competitive federal subsidies that help pay for those projects.

Overall, Mayor Frank Kelty said he wants to emphasize that Unalaska’s slow satellite service affects everyone — from individuals and businesses to schools and the clinic.

“I don’t know if we’re going to have time to do everything,” Kelty said. “But he can be made fully aware of the needs that we have in this community on the lack of connectivity.”

Carr will be escorted by the staff of U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, who encouraged the commissioner to visit the island during his first trip to Alaska.

A Sullivan spokesperson said the senator heard about Unalaska’s broadband struggles during his own trip in 2016 — and thought this would be a “perfect community” for Carr to visit.

The commissioner will stop in in seven other communities during his five-day swing through the state, including Anchorage, Dillingham and Utqiagvik.