North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower

North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower issued an emergency declaration on June 14 in the wake of a severed unwater fiberoptic cable that has resulted in the widespread loss of internet and cellular phone service across the vast rural Alaska community.

Quintillion, which provides broadband service in Arctic Alaska, said its subsea fiber was cut on June 10, about 34 miles north of Oliktok Point. The cut has caused a systemwide outage, affecting Utqiagvik, Wainwright, Point Hope, Kotzebue, Nome and Atqasuk.

The company suggested the breakage may have occurred due to heavy ice movement 90 feet below the ocean surface, and it is working with undersea cable maintenance teams to restore the services.

“A repair vessel has been mobilized and is enroute to the area. We will be working to coordinate the timing of the vessel arrival with the ice break up around point Barrow,” Quintillion’s website notes. “At present, we are unable to provide an exact timeline for service restoration due to the complexity of the issue … The current estimate is 6-8 weeks depending on timing of ice breakup and repair requirements.”

Bower’s emergency declaration notes that the North Slope Borough is a political subdivision withing the State of Alaska, providing municipal services and infrastructure to the area, and that it needs immediate outside help to address the outage.

“The loss of these communication services will severely impact the ability to provide municipal services including emergency services, such as Search and Rescue, Police, Fire and Utilities,” the declaration states. “The severity and magnitude of the emergency is beyond the timely and effective response capability of local resources within the North Slope Borough and emergency assistance is needed.”

According to a June 15 report from KNOM Radio Mission, 911 service in Nome remained working, and there has been “intermittent cell and internet service,” allowing for a handful of businesses and ATMs to accept credit or debit cards.

Nome City Manager Glenn Steckman explained that 911 calls on cellular phones utilize an emergency function, which allows those calls to continue in the wake of the crisis. Additionally, Steckman told KNOM that the city maintains its own radio system that is independent of outside sources. Emergency communication, he said, can continue through the city’s radio system.

“We have gotten dependent on Quintillion and now we’re having to look back okay what can we do what should we do before we had Quintillion,” Steckman said.

Quintillion is the only provider of its kind serving Western Alaska and North Slope Arctic regions.

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Facing months-long internet/cell service outage, North Slope declares emergency, seeks outside aid

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Steve says:

    Call Lisa Murkowski, she’ll give you all of our money you need to fix this problem.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Call the-woke company GCI they’ll fix it.

  • douglas says:

    Interstingly, Russia threatened to cut undersea fiber cables around the same time these were cut. Also, Arctic ice does not extend 90 feet down, which is why the cables run that deep to avoid the ice. A recent article revealed 3 Russian submarines punching holes through 5 foot thick ice to emerge within 100 yards of each other, so the idea of “ice movement 90 feet down” seems to be dis/misinformation. A deliberate act of sabotage perhaps?

    • Andrew says:

      90 feet down and buried under 4 feet of mud and dirt, yeah, suspicious.

    • Friend of Humanity says:

      Who reported that “Russia threatened to cut undersea fiber cables?” Did this information come from the White House or MSM? I really am curious because I had not heard this.

  • Aunt Sally says:

    Oh my gosh… it’s yet another gripping episode of “The Plight of the Villagers” in which the eternally beleaguered yet intrepid souls of these far-flung locales find their ever so precious lifestyles and traditional internet service imperiled. But not to worry! This is everyone else’s opportunity to make everything right by bailing out these special folks with our own money. Surely it’s the least we can do unless they want some free iPads and phones, in which case we must dutifully step up to the plate with the additional cash they so desperately need.

    • Douglas says:

      Sally, it appears they lost ALL telecommunications (cellular service), which impacts emergency services right? As well, internet today can be used for telemedicine consultation, which may even reduce healthcare costs related to travel expenses from remote villages. Perhaps you did not consider these humane aspects of their plight?

      • Friend of Humanity says:

        Maybe it is time to sign up for Starlink? Someone called in on a meeting recently from the North Slope and they were on a Starlink connection. The connection sounded good.

      • Abracadabra says:

        How did the world get by before cell and internet services…? Everybody panic.

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Remember this article in which Mrs. O’biden traveled to Bethel to talk about high speed internet for the villages?

  • Jen says:

    Maybe it’s Biden inflicting more pain on us Alaskans like locking us up isn’t damaging enough damaging Alaska’s cables like Nordstream pipeline is presumed to been done by Biden. Or it’s a Russian sub.

  • DoneWithIt says:

    ice 90 feet deep?
    what about global warming???

  • AK Fish says:

    Climate changed! Time to go back to copper wire land lines, dialup modems, fax machines and CB/VHF radios. Call Peltola, she’ll get right on it, She has plenty of Dark Money for everyone. Looks like they need to 6+ meters deep with their cable burial IF ice really did cause this outage.

  • Elizabeth Henry says:

    That much sea ice? Hasn’t there been recent ‘cry of the climate cult’ that sea ice is dwindling…? I am leaning toward Douglas’s contemplations above….

    • Friend of Humanity says:

      I do not support any other country, but I will say that the UK, Ukraine, the White House, and MSM has always been trying to blame Russia for everything. I am leaning towards Jen’s explanation. Biden wants us to hate Russia, President Trump, and white people. Yep, I am more likely to believe that it is Biden or the UK.

      • Douglas says:

        Well, I can see your position FoH, due to pretty credible evidence that the Brits and US were behind the gas pipeline destruction…so I certainly will not exclude the Biden Admin to have its hands on the North Slope cutting (And for clarity my point above does not actually accuse Russia but simply says it could have been sabotage, right?)

      • Friend of Humanity says:

        Douglas, I am listening to Mike Adams/Health Ranger Report talking with John Moore/The Liberty Man. John believes that Russia may have blown up that bridge for strategic benefits – doing that affected them, but was stopping Ukraine from doing certain things. Interesting. Anyway, I still stand with my statement about support.

  • Sherman Stebbins says:

    Isnt the North Slope area the wealthiest Native Group in Alaska ? They cant afford to bring in Satellite Communications etc ? This just gleaned from a Google search……Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC) is one of the state’s most successful businesses. The corporation, with a land base on Alaska’s North Slope and corporate offices in Utqiaġvik and Anchorage, reports total revenue of $2.6 billion in FY2017.
    So instead of declaring emergencies and waiting for someone else to come and pay why not draw some wealth from your own corporation and get it done quicker ?