New cell tower to change service options for Seldovia residents

The new tower will replace the current GCI tower

The City of Seldovia is transitioning to a new cellphone tower contracted with Verizon.

The new tower will replace the current GCI tower, which is scheduled to go offline Dec. 31.

Customers from any carrier within range of the new tower will be able to access 911 emergency services and minimal voice services, according to a Dec. 8 statement issued by Verizon.

Laurel Hilts, marketing and public relations director with Seldovia Village Tribe, said it has taken a while to confirm the emergency services component of the new tower and emphasized the importance of having the tower up and running.

“I know SVT and other residents of the city are nervous because we’re in kind of a crunch period. It would be a very serious issue for the community if we lose emergency services, and all of these entities know this and we’re working together to make sure the puzzle all comes together,” she said.

“Cellular connectivity is vital to residents of rural Alaska and we hope this situation gets resolved and we do not have a period without these services,” Hilts said.

The City of Seldovia Planning Commission approved construction of a new tower several years ago, according to interim City Manager Heidi Geagle.

The new tower had to meet state and federal agency requirements including height restrictions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“The tower is now constructed —and Verizon did come in and place their equipment on the tower but they needed more tech capabilities and are working with ACS to get the services necessary,” Geagle said.

The tower was slated to go live with testing status in a limited capacity in the middle of December “but they are waiting on a circuit piece to come in tomorrow,” Geagle said Tuesday. The site will have the increased capacity after Dec. 26, she said.

Another primary concern of Seldovia is what to do for residents and visitors without Verizon service and if roaming on the new equipment will be possible.

Geagle says that Verizon has confirmed minimal voice service will be available.

She said she talked to a Verizon representative this week and confirmed everything is “moving ahead the way it should.”

Hilts confirmed Verizon and Alaska Communications were able to complete their equipment configurations on Dec. 20 and LTE service was successfully initiated. The initial data service is at 25% of expected capacity; Alaska Communications expects to provide the full data service for Verizon by mid-January.

Emilie Springer can be reached at