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‘That is what we’re trying to give’: OneWeb CEO on bringing high-speed internet to rural Alaska

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 9:06 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Bringing high-speed internet to the most remote regions of Alaska is an ambitious goal, but one global communications company is taking on the task in great strides.

“That is what we’re trying to give, what we’re trying to bring is that,” said OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson as he emphatically pounded his finger on the table with excitement.

OneWeb is a telecommunications company that is using a fleet of low Earth orbit satellites in an effort to be able to blanket regions of the arctic to provide, not only, access to the internet, but to high-speed internet.

As Masterson explains it, he wants people in these rural areas to have the same sort of connectivity that people have access to in Anchorage, Fairbanks or even New York City.

“Someone is at home, they’ve got one kid who basically should be doing homework but he’s watching Netflix, you’ve got somebody else who’s on a Teams call or a Zoom call, you’ve got somebody else that’s actually trying to get some work done in another room,” Masterson said.

Related: OneWeb successfully launches final satellites offering high-speed internet to Alaska

To ensure that happens, Masterson traveled all the way from the United Kingdom for a visit this week. He said he plans to check in on the company’s ground facility in Talkeetna, meet with local partners and evaluate what sort of additional staffing OneWeb may need in the state.

“It requires not just for us to work with partners here, but it requires us to have people on the ground to work with those partners to help support this population,” Masterson said. “So one of the key things I want to do this week, the key objective, is that when I leave, I want to make sure that I have a very clear view in my mind ... about what level resources we are going to put on the ground here in Alaska.”

As staffing, business and technical plans for OneWeb continue to get finalized, Masterson said the goal is to be operational for retail users by sometime in November.

On Friday, OneWeb is scheduled to launch their latest batch of 34 satellites to join their already orbiting fleet in the sky. Once those satellites have successfully deployed they will be part of 288 total LEO’s orbiting the Earth.

Eventually, Masterson says the goal is to blanket the whole world in coverage but for now, for OneWeb, Alaska is a great “proving ground.”

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