Unlocking Federal Funds for High-Speed Internet in Rural Alaska

The Client

Southeast Conference is the state and federally designated regional economic development organization for Southeast Alaska. The organization serves as the collective voice for advancing the region’s economy, with 180 member organizations representing 1,200 people from 32 regional communities. Southeast Conference has been in operation for more than a half-century and focuses on concerns unique to the region, including transportation, maritime, tourism, timber, seafood, mining, health care, government, and overall quality of life.

Services Provided:
Grant Writing, Organizational Support & Development, Public Engagement
Community of Gustavus
Southeast Conference
Client type:
Workforce & Econ Dev. Org

Project Date: November-December 2020
Project Lead: Michelle Deckard
Project Team: Jamie Hansen

The Challenge

As with many communities across Alaska, access to high-speed broadband Internet poses an enormous challenge across the Southeast region. Southeast Conference prioritizes supporting improvements in regional infrastructure that are essential to economic development wherever possible, and broadband falls in this category.

When Byte Networking LLC dba Fibre Alaska, the current broadband provider for the Gustavus community, came to Southeast Conference for technical assistance putting together an US Department of Agriculture Community Connect Grant application, the immediate answer was yes. The Community Connect grant would enable an infrastructure upgrade, allowing Gustavus to have fast and reliable internet speeds. However, first the federal grant application had to be unpacked, properly and completely put together with a compelling narrative and supporting documentation, and submitted. Southeast Conference works with leaders across an enormous region, and helped Fibre Alaska carry the application to fruition.

Southeast Conference enlisted Information Insights’ support to break down components and requirements of the grant application, work with Fibre Alaska to compile necessary information and documentation, write the grant application (in partnership with Southeast Conference and Fibre Alaska), and support proper and timely submission.

Our Approach

In grant writing generally, but particularly in Alaska when competing for federal funds, it is essential to gather compelling data that tells the story of the critical need in Alaskan communities. A compelling narrative must be balanced with integrating and highlighting how the project meets the grant application scoring criteria.

This was critical for this project in particular. Gustavus is a unique, remote community in southeast Alaska. The application needed to convey how this place and project was significantly different from other small towns in the Lower 48. Information Insights worked in partnership with Southeast Conference, Fibre Alaska, and community leadership within Gustavus to compile a strong set of data illustrating the local need for broadband, and mapped that against the meticulously unpacked grant requirements to ensure all of the boxes were checked. We drafted clear, concise narratives that both laid out how the project met scoring criteria, and painted a bigger picture for the reader, supported by data.

The Results

The USDA awarded $1,357,868 to Fibre Alaska to fund the construction of the microwave backhaul and the connection of all fiber within Gustavus. This funding will allow Fibre Alaska to offer reliable higher speed broadband service to all the residents within the community, as well as wireless link capacity speeds to other locations outside the community.

Not only is this a success through a huge investment in rural Alaskan infrastructure, but it sets up Fibre Alaska and all partners to apply for future rounds. The applicant and the technical team now have experience in creating and documenting the technical side of the grant proposal, ultimately the hardest part! With this experience they can apply for future rounds or other opportunities in a more efficient and comprehensive way.

This project serves as a major win within the Gustavus community and in Southeast Alaska, but also sets a blueprint for other Alaska communities working to access and unlock federal funding for infrastructure needs.

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