ACS, GCI offer expansion proposal

If the Alaska Wireless Network transaction is approved, and funding is available, rural Alaska consumers could see expanded data service for cell phones and mobile devices by the end of 2014.

Alaska Communications and General Communications Inc. made a voluntary commitment to the federal government regarding service expansions if the infrastructure merger, or AWN, is approved.

The service commitments would extend the fastest service — 4G long term evolution — in remote parts of the state, extend 3G service to 6 additional communities, construct 2G macrosites in 12 remote communities and maintain 2G service in the other communities that have it currently, all by Dec. 31, 2014.

The commitments were made in a May 16 letter to Federal Communications Commission Secretary Marlene Dortch asking for expedited regulatory approval for the merger as proposed in June 2012. The commitments are contingent on approval of the AWN as proposed in June 2012 and continuation of high cost support. The commitments are also contingent on not disqualifying either company from bidding on certain other funding.

AWN Chief Executive Officer Wilson Hughes signed the letter of commitment, as did counsel for both GCI and ACS.

If approved, ACS and GCI will merge their infrastructure in the Alaska Wireless Network, but continue to market separate retail offerings.

The two companies have said that the transaction is a way to remain competitive when major telecommunications players enter the Alaska market.

Verizon is expected to turn on its 4G LTE in parts of the state this summer.