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Communications at the top of the world: Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative Inc. has been providing services to the North Slope Borough of Alaska for more than 20 years. (Alaska Native Business News).

"A phone in every home" is what ASTAC ASTAC Animal Services Training and Consultation
ASTAC Antisubmarine Warfare Tactical Support Center
ASTAC Anti-Submarine/Anti-Surface Warfare Tactical Air Controller (Navy classification for Air controller) 
, Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative, provides for the North Slope North Slope, Alaska: see Alaska North Slope.  Borough of Alaska. The slogan of the 1930s telecom act promoted that what is general good for the nation is equal universal access footing for services and information for everyone. But what really motivated the need and desire for modem communication systems on the North Slope was the development of the Prudhoe Bay Prudhoe Bay, inlet of the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean, N Alaska, in the Alaska North Slope region, east of the Colville River delta. In 1968 one of the largest oil reserves in North America was discovered in Prudhoe Bay.  oil field.

When ASTAC first applied for a certificate in the late '70s, all the oil companies wanted to stick with their current provider, RCA See RCA connector and video/TV history. . All filed petitions opposing this little cooperative start-up how could it possibly serve the big oil companies? But when everyone saw the benefit of low costs in ASTAC's proposed tariff for services, they withdrew their opposition.

"If we didn't provide good service, the oil companies would have a choice. They have the capability of running their own telecommunications business. They would drop us in a minute," says Dave Fauske, general manager for ASTAC. "The major oil industry companies have more complex systems than ASTAC. The benefit is, when we do it right, they have a very reasonable cost for a very good telecommunications service In telecommunication, the term telecommunications service has the following meanings:

1. Any service provided by a telecommunication provider.


"At the local level we can do anything you could get in Seattle or New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City

City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S.
," he continues. The technically limiting and costly part is the satellite path and thus the high cost between villages. There are no terrestrial (land) lines from village to village.

To make service universal, all telephone subscribers contribute to a pool. The pool is distributed in areas where costs are higher than average. Most people in America have basic phone service at a roughly equivalent cost, although it varies from state to state. If your operating costs operating costs nplgastos mpl operacionales  are 115 percent or higher than the national average, you receive the universal fund benefit. For example, the actual cost for phone service for residents in Kaktovik on Barter Island Barter Island is an island located on the Arctic coast of the U.S. state of Alaska, east of Arey Island in the Beaufort Sea. It is about four miles (6 km) long and about two miles (3 km) wide at its widest point.  (located in the Beaufort Sea Beaufort Sea (bō`fərt), part of the Arctic Ocean, N of Alaska and Canada, between Point Barrow, Alaska, and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The Mackenzie River flows into the sea, which is always covered with pack ice.  about 100 miles west of the Alaska/Canada border) is approximately $100 a month, but the subscribers only pay a basic residential rate of $15.30 a month. The Universal Service Fund makes up the difference.

Fauske has been with the not-for-profit cooperative since its inception. Prior to working with ASTAC, Fauske lived in Barrow, where he was a school principal and a teacher, and he worked for the Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and the North Slope Borough. He was involved in the initial formation, incorporation and certification process of ASTAC, and became assistant general manager of ASTAC in 1989. He has served as its general manager since 1992.

ASTAC's story is one about reciprocity reciprocity

In international trade, the granting of mutual concessions on tariffs, quotas, or other commercial restrictions. Reciprocity implies that these concessions are neither intended nor expected to be generalized to other countries with which the contracting parties
 of partnership between individuals and the community--the unique situation of the traditional Inupiat in the villages keeping up with the front edge of technology. Every subscriber is a member-owner of the co-op. Members include individuals in the eight communities of the North Slope Borough, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., Conoco/Phillips Alaska Inc., Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., VECO VECO Vernier Engine Cut Off , Schlumberger, Arctic Slope Regional Corp., the FAA and various state and federal agencies. All members, whether they are individuals or companies, have an equal standing in the co-op. Because of the high technological demands of the oil companies at Prudhoe Bay, and of the rapidly changing villages, there is constant pressure to stay in front of technology.

"We'd be history if our work was not acceptable," says Fauske. "We are fortunate in that we are forced to do it right"

General Electric had the first telephones in Barrow before ASTAC took over. ASTAC began its telecommunications system development in 1977 and was certified by the Alaska Public Utilities Commission in 1980. The Rural Electrification Act The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 provided federal funding for installation of electrical distribution systems to serve rural areas of the United States. It was proposed by Representative John E. Rankin and Senator George William Norris.  of 1930 for rural America provided funding for ASTAC's beginning operations in 1980. The Distant Early Warning (DEWline) radar network and the White Alice tropo-scatter radio communication systems had originally brought the first modern global access to some of the communities in the area. Now celebrating more than 20 years of service to the North Slope area, ASTAC continues to develop and implement services for the unique environment of the North Slope in Alaska.


ASTAC's nine board members represent the co-op's nine districts: Point Hope, Point Lay, Wainwright Wainwright, town (1991 pop. 4,732), E Alta., Canada, SE of Edmonton and near the Sask. border. It is a trade center and railroad division point for an oil and natural gas area. It has oil refineries, grain elevators, and flour mills. Nearby is a military base. , Atqasuk, Nuiqsut, Kaktovik, Anaktuvuk Pass The Anaktuvuk Pass (el. 2200 ft.) is a mountain pass located in North Slope Borough, in Northern Alaska. The Anaktuvuk Pass is in the Brooks Range which divides the Anaktuvuk River with the John River. The median household income in 2000 was $52,500. , Prudhoe Bay and Barrow.

Board members meet quarterly and attend some of the annual national telecommunications training conferences for telecommunications cooperatives.

Board members are elected for three-year terms. President Maggie Hopson represents Nuiqsut; Patrick Mekiana, director, resides in Anaktuvuk Pass. Other members are: Elizabeth Hollingsworth, director, Atqasuk; Marietta Aiken, director, Barrow; Debbie Bernard, director, Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay; Loren Ahlers, director and vice president, Kaktovik; Ella Kowunna, director and secretary/treasurer, Point Hope; Marie Tracey, director, Point Lay; and June Childress, newly elected director, Wainwright.

Board members establish overall policy. The general manager of ASTAC is responsible for day-to-day operations and for compliance with bylaws The rules and regulations enacted by an association or a corporation to provide a framework for its operation and management.

Bylaws may specify the qualifications, rights, and liabilities of membership, and the powers, duties, and grounds for the dissolution of an
, Rural Utilities Service and the state and federal regulatory agencies regulatory agency

Independent government commission charged by the legislature with setting and enforcing standards for specific industries in the private sector. The concept was invented by the U.S.
. All subscribers become members of the co-op and have a direct voice, a right to vote.

Maggie Hopson, president of the board and a retired health aide, was born in Barrow but now lives in Nuiqsut. Previously a board member for years, Hopson is proud of the board's accomplishments. Grateful for the technology they now have, she remembers how difficult it was to get in touch with doctors with only one phone in the village. It was not until 1982 that individual homes in the villages other than Barrow had telephone service; even then they had party lines until private lines were established. Hopson also finds that cell phones today are a great asset for the villages.

Hopson says it was scary when an emergency happened and they had no phones. "What do you do? How do you get ahold a·hold  
Hold; grip: "I knew I could make it all right if I got . . . back to the hotel and got ahold of that bottle of brandy" Jimmy Breslin. 
 of someone?" was the only thought. At that time they had to rely on the communication radios of the school or on public safety officers.


There are 51 full-time employees within ASTAC. Twenty-eight are based or work out of Anchorage and eight are residents in and work out of Barrow. There are seven part-time village representatives currently employed and eight rotating Prudhoe Bay technicians. When ASTAC was originally formed, the organization ran on a staff of less than a dozen-four rotating on-site technicians in Deadhorse, six or seven people on staff in the Anchorage office, and one technician for the west side villages.


Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative's goal is to expand opportunities to the North Slope region of Alaska with the provision, improvement and expansion of quality, competitively priced, and reliable state-of-the-art telecommunications through professional integrity, dedication and customer service. One of ASTAC's original goals was to acquire the GTE/Alaska Barrow local telephone system. On Aug. 31, 2000, the cooperative closed on the purchase of the GTE-Alaska Barrow exchange. This acquisition more than doubled the size of ASTAC's service utility.

ASTAC's mission is to provide reliable low-cost, high-quality telephone service. As a rural co-op, ASTAC qualifies for federal high-cost loop support to help offset the high costs of extending and maintaining local distribution facilities to its widely dispersed rural membership. Some low-income families may also qualify for the "Lifeline and Linkup link·up  
1. The act of linking or connecting: a linkup of two orbiting spacecraft.

2. Something that serves to link or join; a connection.

" $1-a-month plan for service and reduced installation charges.

ASTAC's annual growth rate has been 5 percent per year. Service now includes wireless and local dial-up Internet access See dial-up. . ASTAC services more than 80 percent of the households and businesses in its area. Its goal is to achieve 100 percent service in all villages. Currently 39 percent of ASTAC's lines serve residential members while 61 percent serve business needs.

ASTAC's assets exceed $17.3 million. The annual operating budget Noun 1. operating budget - a budget for current expenses as distinct from financial transactions or permanent improvements
budget items, operating cost, operating expense, overhead - the expense of maintaining property (e.g.
 exceeds $8.4 million.

SUPPORT SERVICES support services Psychology Non-health care-related ancillary services–eg, transportation, financial aid, support groups, homemaker services, respite services, and other services  

ASTAC's Web site provides 24-hour technical support, the latest information on new Internet See Web 2.0 and Internet2.  services, changes in service, equipment maintenance work and important customer announcements in the ASTAC updates' section. It lists local weather conditions, travel information on road conditions, local businesses, search engines, entertainment for kids, airlines, travel and vacation guides.


The North Slope region of Alaska covers 92,000 square miles. There are just more than 6,000 access lines served by nine central offices located in eight of the region's traditional villages and at the petroleum industry exploration and production complex at Deadhorse-Prudhoe Bay.

A typical long-distance phone call can travel up to 90,000 miles to the satellite, back to the switch, back up to the satellite, and down to its destination, thus involving a double hop. However recent upgrades to satellite switching have reduced in-region calls to a single hop in many cases.

Remote villages in Alaska are not your conventional remote towns in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . And servicing these villages is not a typical technician's day. When Jeff Anderson travels to the northern Arctic Slope region, the size of Minnesota and a chunk of Wisconsin, he carries survival gear. He must have a broad array of skills and play many roles-he may do aerial wire installation, marketing and planning as some of his many tasks.

He must be able to maintain and upgrade the digital central office switch, to take care of the central office backup generator, provide installation and tech support of public safety, business, telehealth and distance learning equipment for local government, the village corporation, the school and clinic.

He departs for three or more weeks at a time, traveling on Bush flights from village to village, spending two to three days in each village. He starts his day with an 800-mile flight to Barrow, the northernmost community. A chartered Bush flight takes him 100 miles to Wain-wright. There are no roads between the nine served communities. All technicians who travel in these remote areas must be self-reliant. Job sharing job sharing

an arrangement by which a job is shared by two part-time workers

job sharing job nJobsharing nt, Arbeitsplatzteilung f 
 and teamwork are part of the staffs daily activities at ASTAC in terms of maintenance, order control, management, accounting, billing and data record keeping.

In a video documentary produced by ASTAC several years ago, many local residents recalled when there was only one telephone in their village. Herman Kignak of Atqasuk remarks there is more communications now than they ever had before. One of ASTAC's original incorporators, Herman Rexford of Kaktovik, talked enthusiastically about the ability to call each other in the villages--before that visiting and communication were strictly dependent upon weather.

Amos Agnasagga, a former ASTAC board member and resident of Point Lay, expresses his gratefulness for the ability to be able to send pictures from the clinic directly to the hospital in Anchorage and for the ability to dial 800 numbers.

Management says it is phenomenal what ASTAC has accomplished in terms of telecommunications today for the North Slope Borough. Remember--this is an area in remote, rural Alaska where there were no village telephones 25 years ago. Now sophisticated subscribers expect and demand the latest developments in telecommunications service. Other rural areas in the United States--like parts of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, South Dakota South Dakota (dəkō`tə), state in the N central United States. It is bordered by North Dakota (N), Minnesota and Iowa (E), Nebraska (S), and Wyoming and Montana (W).  and North Dakota--have had service for decades.

In the ASTAC video, Roosevelt Paneak of Anatuvak Pass talks of the state-of-the-art equipment they have. There is no lack of imagination. They want to implement the best. The goal is to have electronic communications and commerce for business, education and government. There may be economic limitations, but the people in the villages are not backward. The new challenge is to bring subscribers and communities as much of the new digital, broadband and bandwidth-on-demand service as possible.

In terms of performance standard, ASTAC staff and village subscribers are ready to update to the latest equipment and methods whenever necessary. ASTAC now offers, subject to the satellite network limitations, every enhanced calling feature available.

ASTAC now offers many enhanced calling features in all of its local exchanges, such as caller ID A telephone company service that sends the caller's telephone number between the first and second ring of the call. If the calling number is not blocked, the calling number is displayed on the handset or base station of the called party. , call waiting and equal access to those areas supported by the rural satellite network.

Is this normal, usual telephone service? No, this is not your basic phone service; it includes satellites, telehealth technology, local dial-up Internet access, compressed video compressed video - video compression , wireless telephony telephony without wires, usually employing electric waves of high frequency emitted from an oscillator or generator, as in wireless telegraphy. A telephone transmitter causes fluctuations in these waves, it being the fluctuations only which affect the receiver.

See also: Wireless
, computer-assisted instruction computer-assisted instruction

Use of instructional material presented by a computer. Since the advent of microcomputers in the 1970s, computer use in schools has become widespread, from primary schools through the university level and in some preschool programs.
 and video conferencing See videoconferencing.

(communications) video conferencing - A discussion between two or more groups of people who are in different places but can see and hear each other using electronic communications.
. What will the future hold for the North Slope Borough and ASTAC? Only more growth, says leaders.

Contact information:

Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative Inc. (ASTAC)

4300 B Street, Suite 501

Anchorage, Alaska 99503

(907) 563-3989

COPYRIGHT 2002 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:Morgan, Barbara
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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