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Internet in teacher housing in the bush?

PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2015 7:14 pm
by robfamily6
It may depend on the district and area... but I was wondering about the possibility of working on your advanced degree online if you were teaching in the bush.

Is internet generally available in teacher housing in the bush?

Re: Internet in teacher housing in the bush?

PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2015 5:19 am
by Johncn
Hello,

Many teachers work on course credits and degree programs by distance while living in the Bush. Internet is generally available in even the most remote villages, but it is not (in most cases) the sort of 'broadband" you might be used to living in the Lower 48...the land of fiber optics. ;-) Most districts do not provide teacher housing with Internet, but it is available for teachers and staff to purchase monthly from the local ISP or national satellite Internet provider.

It all varies greatly in bandwidth by connection type. In satellite-based options the speeds are improving each year as the technology does, but there are sometimes difficulties (or expenses) getting a dish installed initially to get the signal reliably. Some villages in Southwest and Western Alaska, for example, have access to the GCI Terra project's microwave / fiber network they built the last couple of years. GCI is the largest single provider in rural Alaska, and has spent tens of millions of dollars building networks out into the Bush the last few years. Those villages have pretty good "broadband" for about $75 / month. Other villages located nearby and in the same school district either may or may not have access to that same sort of connection. If they don't, then it could be marginal service available from the local utility, a different plan available by the same provider, or satellite contracts with Hughes.net, Starband or other companies that resell satellite packages. It's very much tied to what infrastructure is in place in those villages, and it changes every year.

In short, "yes", Internet is available, but how much it costs, or what options exist would be something you have to check with the district you interview with about once it gets close to an offer, or something you check out after hire. It's going to be slower than you are used to and a bit more expensive, but it will still work (usually)...and could cost anywhere from $75 / month to $195 / month, depending on how much you want to buy, and who your provider is. Although GCI is the largest, there are others.

If it were me, I'd go with GCI if the village is part of their Terra / Rural Broadband project. If not, I'd go with satellite-based Internet. :D I speak from experience with both platforms with GCI, and as a former Hughes.net customer. Depending on where you are headed, others may have different advice.

In either case (GCI Rural Broadband or satellite based Internet), and everybody in the business over promises. Just accept that you will get only a portion of the rocking service any ISP company promises in rural Alaska. They also DO have specific bandwidth quotas (maximum amount you can consume without paying more) which vary widely. This is not something most L48 communities and customers are used to having in place. It can add up if you are into streaming music or videos daily. You may have to change your habits, or be prepared to pay. So...check carefully how many gigs a month you get. Some also limit streaming.

Here is a comparison of GCI's Internet offerings for two different villages in the district I used to work for...and a link to check all villages by availability by entering the name of the community:

GCI Internet Package Finder - by village
http://www.gci.com/internet/plans

GCI Village Broadband Package (Unalakleet, BSSD)
Image

GCI Village Regular Package (Wales, BSSD)
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As you can see, the bandwidth allocation / cost ratio is hugely different. In comparison, satellite Internet packages will be about $100 / month for a pretty decent connection, but will impacted sometimes by weather (snow, ice, rain on dish), and will have more startup costs unless the district housing unit already has a dish in place.

Here is a map of the GCI Terra Project villages online, and a link to their proposed ones for the coming year:

GCI Terra Project Info
http://terra.gci.com/maps-locations

Image

Here are some providers of satellite Internet in Alaska. Note that Dish Network does not work and is not available in the part of Alaska I lived in (despite what the company says when you call), but it may be in some areas.

Exede Internet - Microcom is Alaska reseller
http://www.exede.com/local-dealer/microcom-alaska

Hughes.net - Who I had the last several years
http://www.hughesnet.com/index.cfm?page=Alaska
Alaska Satellite Internet
Fairbanks, Alaska
Phone: 907-451-0088
Toll Free: 1-888-396-5623

Starband - Associated with the Open Skies grant project (rolled out in 2011 or 2012), but I have had no experience with this since that service was implemented. I was a Starband customer in the early 2000s before switching to Hughes.net.
http://www.starband.com/

Finally, many districts do not discourage or prohibit staff use of the Internet during non-work hours to take online classes. Most schools do have decent Internet at this point, but again, it may not be "broadband" like you are used to living in the L48.
Hope this helps,

John

Re: Internet in teacher housing in the bush?

PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2015 6:53 am
by robfamily6
wow... Thanks John. That's great information, and is a huge help.

Thanks again

Re: Internet in teacher housing in the bush?

PostPosted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 8:02 pm
by Planetwalker
Great research. Thanks!

Re: Internet in teacher housing in the bush?

PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:31 pm
by marymatt718
John is right, there is internet available. I am working on a Master's in Teaching Math right now. I have GCI, but where the teacher housing in my village is located makes GCI unreliable at times. Our housing is 3 and 1/2 miles from the main village, where residents tell me they have no problems with GCI at all. A friend has Hughes Net, which seems to be more reliable but has its owns set of problems.

With Hughes Net, you don't necessarily pay for GB , you have a sort of allotment you can use at a certain rate (depending on the size of the satellite dish you have to purchase and have installed), and it works kind of like a leaky bucket. If your leak (what you use) leaves at about the same rate the faucet keeps filling the bucket, you maintain a useable level (speed) of service. If you over use the supply (movie downloads, for example), the flow reduces to a trickle and you have a slow drip (think dial-up speed) until the bucket can be filled again (the next day)....BUT between 10pm and 3 am, the "bucket" is temporarily filled again (because the demand is low) and there is unlimited flow (speedy service). After 3 am, it slows back down to a trickle until about 5 or 6 am.

Annoying as this may seem, my friend's internet has NEVER stopped working for three days in a row like my GCI has, nor has he been right in the middle of something, had the wind gust and move the frickin' antenna, and had his internet lose contact with the main relay. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!. The start-up is more expensive with Hughes Net, unless some previous teacher has left their dish behind, but the equipment (box and remote, etc) is about the same, about $300. The best thing to do is to ask teachers at your site what they use. I wish I had done that because for what I am paying for an unreliable GCI account, I could have had the Hughes Net my friend has, especially since some departing teacher DID leave their dish behind. Again,GCI is not always unreliable, so check with several people at your site before you choose. Sometimes you can also buy the box, etc. from a departing teacher.

No matter which service you get, don't expect to be streaming any movies. Neither one of the services is reliable enough or big enough for that. Get a Netflix account (yes, they will send stuff to AK) or rent movies on iTunes, but forget streaming movies from Amazon Prime. We usually download movies and such at our school, which they allow as long as we don't do so during the school day. I usually leave my personal computer locked up in my classroom overnight to download stuff on iTunes. Sometimes it takes all night to download a 2.0 GB or so movie...this is definitely NOT the internet you might be used to in the lower 48.

Good luck in the job search!

Re: Internet in teacher housing in the bush?

PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2015 2:24 pm
by Bushteachers
I'm working on a sped endorsement. We pay for gci and I have a direct line of sight to the tower, yet the sped is so slow I can't do my classes from my house, not to mention that I would max out my data usage after two classes per month. So I stay at school until 830 at night taking my class.

Re: Internet in teacher housing in the bush?

PostPosted: Mon May 18, 2015 11:14 pm
by schneidler
Fantastic info from several people, especially John who as usual put out really good, detailed content. I've been in the bush for quite a while and have nothing to add, just had to compliment because the info is spot on. Also the advice to ask the teachers who are already there what they use - yes. Get a phone number or email address of a returning teacher - they know a lot more about the site than someone from the district central office does, generally speaking.