An aerial view of the town of Bethel from an airplane. The tundra is brown and clear of snow, surrounding the village of light colored buildings with blue and red roofs.
Bethel Fiber Project AIRRAQ Network

Bethel Native Corporation and GCI have partnered on a project to deliver high-speed internet to Bethel, Alaska, and 12 other communities in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region. Once complete, the AIRRAQ Network will bring digital equity to 11,800 Alaskans living in the traditional home of the Yup’ik people.

The AIRRAQ (pronounced EYE-huck) Network’s name is a traditional Yupik game, similar to cat’s cradle, that translates to “string that tells the story.” Much like an airraq, the fiber network will allow the people of the Y-K Delta to tell stories, teach lessons, and share their history and culture.

A boat with its motor raised is moored on the coast at sunset with small buildings in the background.

Effectively leveraging private investment and federal grant programs

The AIRRAQ Network is funded by three federal grants and will bring fast, affordable, unlimited internet plans to consumers in the Y-K Delta region.

The first phase of the project is funded by a $42 million grant awarded to Bethel Native Corporation from the NTIA Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program. This phase includes a 405-mile subsea and terrestrial fiber backbone network. Starting in Dillingham, the fiber will follow a submarine route to the mouth of the Kuskokwim River, and then transition to an overland route to Bethel. Bethel is slated to come online first and Platinum, Eek, Napaskiak and Oscarville will follow soon after.

The second phase of the project is funded by a $31 million USDA RUS ReConnect grant awarded to GCI. This phase of the project will extend the project to five additional communities: Atmautluak, Kasigluk, Nunapitchuk, Quinhagak and Tuntutuliak. GCI will connect each community to the project’s fiber-optic backbone and deploy local fiber-to-the-premises networks, bringing affordable 2,500 Mbps consumer internet plans with unlimited data to even more Alaskans.

Phase three is funded by a $35 million USDA RUS ReConnect grant awarded to GCI. This phase will bring 2.5 gig residential internet speeds to Toksook Bay, Emmonak and Tununak. GCI will extend the AIRRAQ Network’s fiber-optic backbone more than 350 miles north along the coast of Western Alaska to reach the three communities.

The project will connect in Dillingham to a second NTIA-funded fiber project being constructed by Nushagak Electric & Telephone Cooperative (NETC) between Dillingham and Levelock. In Levelock, the NETC fiber will connect with GCI’s existing fiber to Anchorage, which itself was constructed with a combination of public and private investment. By working closely with local providers and leveraging existing and funded fiber infrastructure, GCI is making cost-effective use of federal infrastructure programs to close the digital divide for more communities and help bring digital equity to rural Alaska.

See the latest AIRRAQ Project updates ➔

“The people of the Y-K Delta are resourceful, respectful, and resilient. We have a strong sense of community, and we depend upon collaboration with our friends and neighbors to be successful. We know the value of presence, and that is why I have so much confidence in this partnership between BNC and GCI and our collective commitment to deliver this service together.”

- BNC President & CEO Ana Hoffman

Learn more about Ana Hoffman
A portrait of Ana Hoffman, the president and CEO of Bethel Native Corporation, in an Alaskan home that features animal hides and skulls on the walls. She wears traditional Alaska Native clothing.

Culture & community

Life and culture in Bethel and the Y-K Delta remain largely centered on the rich traditions of the Yup’ik people. The region is almost 50,000 square miles from the western edge of Southcentral Alaska to the Bering Sea and includes the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers which form one of the world’s largest river deltas.

There are 56 Alaska Native villages in the region that are home to Yup’ik, Cupik and Athabascan peoples. With more than 6,000 residents Bethel is the largest community in the area and serves as the region’s hub for education, health care, and commerce.

Salmon dries on a traditional Native Alaskan fish rack made of wood.

A new normal

High-speed, affordable internet will bring access to opportunities that can help grow the local economy in Bethel and the surrounding communities. This includes healthcare, government services, education, small business, and a variety of remote job opportunities.

An elder Alaska Native man sits atop a red 4-wheeler ATV waving at the camera. He wears a blue windbreaker, sunglasses and a camo baseball cap.

Strong partnership

The Bethel Native Corporation and GCI are partnering on this project with the common goal of closing the digital divide in the Y-K Delta, bringing digital equity to 11,800 Alaskans, and connectivity that will empower the people of the region to share their rich culture and history with the world.
An image with the logos for the Bethel Native Corporation and GCI on a white background
A map of the 13 areas that are part of the AIRRAQ network partnership between Bethel Native Corporation and GCI, including: Bethel, Platinum, Eek, Napaskiak, Oscarville, Atmautluak, Kasigluk, Nunapitchuk, Quinhagak, Tuntutuliak, Toksook Bay, Emmonak, and Tununak.