Hubs to see more data, lower price for internet use
Rural hub communities around the state will be seeing higher data caps, lower price tags, and no more overage charges under a new home internet plan from GCI.
The telecommunications company is in the process of rolling out its No Worries Plan in Utqiaġvik, Kotzebue, Nome, and Bethel.
"We offer it in our urban markets already and we're introducing it now in our hub communities," said Heather Handyside, a spokesperson for GCI. "As technology improves, we hope to offer it in other rural communities in the region."
Customers who are already serviced by GCI will automatically be upgraded from their current plans to the new comparable plans, a move that should alleviate some of the monthly worry heavy internet users currently face throughout the region.
"The main thing that No Worries does is eliminate the need for people to very closely monitor their data usage with their plans," Handyside said. "When customers get close to their data limit, they'll get an email from us letting them know they're close to reaching their limit. At that time, they'll be advised of their options: to continue at a reduced speed or to purchase additional data."
Depending on a user's plan, they'll get different amounts of additional data offered to them for a set price for the rest of the month.
"With the basic plan, you'd get 2 gigs of data for $10. If you're on our select plan, you'll get 5 gigs of data for $10," she said. "So, it really depends on how much data you want to buy to get you through the rest of the billing period."
If a user doesn't want to purchase any additional data, they can continue their service at decreased speeds.
In the past, users often incurred costly fees for using more data than allowed by their plans, something Handyside said GCI customers had indicated they wanted changed.
"We work closely with our partners at Ericsson, which is a company that supplies equipment to global telecommunications companies. They help us create new technologies for our markets to deliver faster speeds and more data," she explained. "We've also made recent upgrades to our TERRA network that allows us to upgrade in our hub communities."
Along with taking away overage charges, the No Worries Plan will offer more data at lower costs as part of its base packages.
For example, a customer who currently has the Alaska Xtreme Plan with 10 gigs of data per month for $79.99 will now pay $59.99 for 20 gigs under the comparable No Worries Plan. Right now, 40 gigs cost $169.99, while under the new plan, 50 gigs will carry a price tag of $149.99.
"We are always looking for new technology that allows us to bring faster speeds and increase data for our customers because we know that's what our customers want," Handyside said. "So, we saw this as a great opportunity."
Overall, she said she hopes rural users will benefit from the new plans, which are more in line with the way people use the internet in this connected world.
"I think people today are so busy and in a typical household, there's many online users. So, it just can be difficult to really monitor who is using the data and how much data has been used. What we're really trying to do is take the worry out of the process for our customers," she said. "We'll monitor it for you and then when you reach the limit, we'll give you the choice."
GCI said it has already notified customers in the rural hubs of the plan changes, which began July 21. Anyone with questions or concerns about the plan can contact GCI at 1-800-800-4800 or visit their local store.
Shady Grove Oliver can be reached at email@example.com.