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Extreme Ice Encasing GCI Tower Disrupting Lower Yukon Phone And Internet Services

Extreme ice encasing a GCI communications tower near Scammon Bay has disrupted phone and internet services throughout the area since March.

Lower Yukon and nearby coastal communities can expect spotty phone and internet services to continue. Unusually thick ice on a GCI communications tower near Scammon Bay has meant frequent service interruptions for surrounding communities since March.

GCI says that a technician has been snowmachining out to check the site every day, but nobody can climb the tower yet. Company spokesperson Heather Handyside says that all they can do right now is wait for the ice to melt.

“There’s so much ice on the tower," Handyside said, "that it really makes it unsafe for our crews to work on it.”

A picture of the site shows a thick, white ice-and-snow-pack encasing the tower. GCI operates these towers throughout the state and Handyside says that they’re built for Arctic conditions, but she calls this situation “extreme.” The tower is too icy to climb and falling ice could hurt workers and damage equipment. Likewise, she says that spraying a de-icing solution on the tower “could do more harm than good.” Dislodged ice could damage antennas and cause an area-wide outage. A gradual melt, Handyside said, is the best way to maintain services.

“So what we’re doing right now is monitoring it, waiting for the snow and ice to get to such a situation that we can approach the tower and begin to assess it, and make repairs if needed,” she explained.

GCI has notified affected customers of the issue and will distribute service credits based on the duration of interruptions once repairs are made. When KYUK called various communities to ask how they were being impacted, the calls could not get through.

GCI is holding a town hall meeting in Bethel on Wednesday, April 18 at the Cultural Center from 6 to 7:15 p.m.

Correction: Community members in affected villages say that the outages began in March, not April, as KYUK originally reported.

Anna Rose MacArthur served as KYUK's News Director from 2015-2022.