Internet Service Providers In Fairbanks, Alaska

Are you looking for an internet service provider in Fairbanks, Alaska?

If so, you’ve come to the right place.

In this post, I’m going to cover all the possible options and give you a little bit of insight into each of the providers.  For each provider, we’ll provide a brief independent narrative and a pro/con list of their offerings.

I’m a network engineer that lives and works in Fairbanks.  So, I have good insight into the different internet providers and what’s good or bad about them.

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to largely focus on residential internet service.  We may do a business focused page sometime in the future.

The goal of this post is to continually update it as new or different options become available.  The information on this page should be as current as possible.

While Fairbanks does see challenges for internet services, especially once you get outside city limits, there often are options.

Often, You Don’t Have A Choice

There’s a bit of a joke about internet services in Fairbanks and even Alaska as a whole.

“After careful consideration of all my options, I went with the only provider that could get me service!”

Albeit a funny quip, this is often actually true.

While in some places you might have two or even more providers as an option, in Fairbanks it’s very common to only have a single internet option.

This is changing with the introduction of multiple wireless ISP’s in the area.  But, the internet options are highly limited overall, especially when compared to places in the lower 48.

Additionally, it’s all too uncommon that internet speeds are not considered “modern,” typically falling well behind speeds you’d find in the lower 48 and other countries.

Only Two Wireline Carriers In Fairbanks

By “wireline carrier” we mean a carrier that uses an actual cable to provide your home internet services.  This is often contrasted against wireless carriers.

For the most part, wired connections are considered the most reliable out there.  That’s not to say that they don’t have problems, every carrier occasionally has issues.

These are two wireline carriers that service Fairbanks, Alaska Communications and GCI (General Communications, Inc.).

GCI is the local cable TV company, which has a presence across a lot of Alaska.  Whereas, Alaska Communications is the local incumbent telephone carrier across a lot of Alaska.

Both of these companies offer internet connectivity in many (but not all) of their service locations.  Fairbanks is within the service area of those two companies.

Most homes in Fairbanks will have access to one or both of these carriers.  Some homes will not have access to one, the other and sometimes even both.

Whether you can actually receive service from either of these two carriers may depend on other factors.

Wireless Internet Service Providers In Fairbanks

Currently, two wireless internet service providers (or, WISP for short) service the Fairbanks area.

Both Mountain Beam and SpitwSpots service the Fairbanks area.  Mountain Beam is a local Fairbanks company, whereas SpitwSpots is based out of Homer, Alaska.

Wireless internet service is one of the newer forms of internet service delivery, but it is well established.  Delivery of service involves installing a wireless antenna on your home that connects to a nearby antenna on a cellular tower, tall building or mountain top.

This technology has been very successful in challenging places like Alaska.  Since it’s not dependent on physical wiring, it can often be used to reach locations that have historically been unserviceable by traditional wireline carriers.

In most cases, this technology requires what is called “line of sight” or an unblocked path between the home and carrier’s antennas.

Cellular Home Internet In Fairbanks

Currently, no cellular providers that service the Fairbanks area offer a “truehome internet option.

While you can use cellular providers as your internet provider, they are often limited to typical “hot spot” plans that you would find on any typical carrier’s plan.

This type of internet connectivity might work for some people.  If you really only use devices like cell phones or tablets, this might be the way to go.

Should you want to use desktops and other WiFi devices, some carriers offer hot spot devices that offer WiFi or sometimes wired (ethernet) connections.  (You can also buy 3rd party routers with LTE capabilities.)

Typically, cellular based plans offer rather limited “high speed” hot spot data, ranging from a few gigabytes up to about 100 gigabytes per month.  These plans will often slow down to extremely low speeds (hundreds of kilobits) when the plan is exceeded.

In many cases, the typical home use of internet data exceed these plans.  The carriers really don’t want us using LTE and cell plans as a home internet solution.  (There simply aren’t equivalents to things like T-Mobile home internet in Alaska.)

The reason we don’t have LTE home internet in Fairbanks is largely because of infrastructure limitations and demand.  The carriers simply couldn’t keep up with demand, mostly because of radio spectrum limitations.

The cellular carriers that service the Fairbanks area include:

If you want to pursue these, it’s generally best to go with a provider that provides the best signal at the desired location.  Carrier availability and quality can vary significantly, especially in certain areas around Fairbanks.

Fiber To The Home In Fairbanks

For the most part, there is very little fiber to the home (also known as FTTH) installed in and around Fairbanks.  It is only available in very specific areas and homes, all located within city limits.

The only carrier currently offering any kind of fiber optic based internet in Fairbanks is Alaska Communications.  GCI advertises it, but to our knowledge, isn’t providing it in Fairbanks.

While you might see these advertised by Alaska Communications, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to actually get these services.

While Alaska Communications is continuing to pursue additional fiber connectivity, as of yet it is not more widespread.

Alaska Communications current fiber deployment strategy appears to largely be an attempt to more directly compete with GCI.  Therefore, it is most likely to be deployed in GCI’s existing territory than to benefit households without access to high speed internet.

This is likely to change with current RDOF and BEAD funding for Alaska, but this is years away at this point.  It is also unclear what areas will be serviced.  Even then, it’ll still be limited to specific areas.

More likely than not, you will not be getting fiber to the home anytime soon.

GCI Cable Internet

GCI provides internet using cable TV infrastructure.  It is the fastest available internet technology available in Fairbanks.

Your home must be serviced by the provider in order to get service from them.  Not all homes are serviceable.  In some cases, even GCI’s records are incorrect of who they can serve.

Plans are available that can provide hundreds of megabits per second upwards of multiple gigabits per second.  They also provide fairly good discounts if you combine mobile phone services with them.

While GCI has expanded services in the Fairbanks area in the past, there have not been any recent expansion efforts in many years.  So, if you’re hopeful that they may come to your area, you might not want to hold your breath.

GCI Pros:

  • Fast plans are available, solidly offering broadband services
  • GCI is generally recognized as reliable, however, all carriers occasionally experience issues
  • Installation is fully managed, meaning the customer needs very little technical expertise
  • Overall, if this technology is available to you, we’d recommend it over other carriers

GCI Cons:

  • GCI’s technical support was moved overseas, which can create language barriers and reduce support quality
  • Some locations use rather old infrastructure and may experience reliability issues.  But, they “should” fix it.
  • Recent reports of major stability problems with the very high speed modems (i.e. 2.5gbps)
  • GCI’s plans have usage caps.  If you exceed the cap for your plan, your speed will be reduced.  Even the so called “unlimited” plan has a theoretical limit.
  • Relatively high cost, especially for the higher end data plans.

Alaska Communications Internet

Alaska Communications largely provides residential internet service via traditional telephone infrastructure.

In most cases, internet delivery is using DSL (digital subscriber line) technology.  In more rare cases, they can provide fixed wireless connectivity.

A large majority of homes in the Fairbanks area do have telephone cabling to their home.  However, that doesn’t automatically mean you are eligible for their services.

When you can get service, you can expect somewhere between 15mbps to 75mbps for download.  Upload is typically much less, between 5mbps and 40mbps.

Alaska Communications does not sell DSL technology when predicted speeds are very low.  (Typically 1mbps, often outside of city limits.)  DSL is highly dependent on the cable length, or the distance from your home to the servicing equipment.  (Typically called a DSLAM.)

In some areas, Alaska Communications have expanded their fiber network using what’s called a “fiber to the node” model, meaning they can deliver much higher speeds to some areas.

Alaska Communications Pros:

  • Service is generally quite reliable since it uses cable based technologies
  • Alaska Communications services are largely reliable and resilient, but all carriers experience occasional issues
  • True “unlimited” plans are provided, meaning there are no caps you need to worry about
  • Installation is fully managed, meaning the customer requires very little technical expertise.
  • Relatively good cost for what you get, assuming you can get 50-75mbps plans.

Alaska Communications Cons:

  • DSL is a somewhat archaic technology, not capable of modern, high speed internet.  (i.e 100mbps and better)
  • Very fast plans (above 75mbps) are not available
  • Distance from the servicing equipment determines your actual speeds
  • DSL technology is unlikely to experience significant “modernization” meaning these networks are likely insufficient for future internet needs

Mountain Beam Wireless Internet

Mountain Beam is a wireless ISP that serves the Fairbanks area.  Established in 2020, they were the first wireless internet provider to serve the Fairbanks market.

Mountain Beam has several transmission locations around the Fairbanks area.  If you can establish line of sight (visual, without obstruction) to these service locations, you are potentially eligible for service.

The Mountain Beam network is a bit peculiar.  They strongly desire that you have the technical capabilities to survey, install and cable the connection.  While they do provide limited installation services occasionally, the company strongly encourages self-installation.

Mountain Beam is a reliable network, approaching cable based reliability.  They do have occasional outages due to extreme cold and power outages that affect their service locations.

Available plans range from 8mbps up to 48mbps, relatively low speeds on the scale of broadband delivery.  However, this is adequate for most households.

Perhaps uniquely, Mountain Beam’s plans are “synchronous” meaning you get equal amounts of download and upload.  This is really good, especially if you do a lot of video conferencing or sending data to other locations.

We have a full review of Mountain Beam here.

Mountain Beam Pros:

  • Can often service locations that were previously unserviceable via cabled technologies
  • You own the local equipment and they provide you access to see how it is performing.
  • Network is generally quite reliable and it works the overwhelming majority of the time.
  • The owner is very responsive to customers and is also local to Fairbanks.
  • Technical issues are publicly reported and resolved quickly
  • They offer very inexpensive plans, great for a backup internet connection and for those on a tight budget.

Mountain Beam Cons:

  • Often requires self-installation of the radios and some technical knowledge.
  • Very high speed internet plans (above 50mbps) are not currently available.
  • Higher end plans are quite expensive, well above average costs for what you get.
  • Occasional internet outages due to extreme cold and power outages
  • Speeds can occasionally slow down below rated speeds due to network congestion
  • Requires line of sight to the service location, often requiring mounts on top of your home to get above the trees
  • Traffic is backhauled all the way to San Jose, California which adds a bit of latency. (Typically, 80 milliseconds)  The network still “feels” fast.

SpitwSpots Internet

SpitwSpots is a wireless ISP that serves the Fairbanks area.  While it has served the Homer market previously, they expanded services into Fairbanks in 2022.

Since this company uses wireless technology, they can often provide services to locations that historically were unserviceable via cabled technologies.

Like with all wireless ISP’s, they require line of sight to their service locations.  Therefore, properties with heavy tree cover may continue to be unserviceable.  SpitwSpots has several transmission locations around Fairbanks and North Pole.

SpitwSpots is a full service wireless internet service company, providing end-to-end management of the installation and network.  They require very little technical knowledge to subscribe.

According to SpitwSpot’s marketing information, they are able to provide plans that provide between 10mbps and 300mbps.

While we are trying to keep our personal opinions at bay in this post, our personal experience with SpitwSpots was quite poor.  We were unable to achieve anything close to rated speeds and had frequent service quality issues.  We also had issues with their support providing responsive information about the reported problems.

We have a full review of SpitwSpots available here.

SpitwSpots Pros:

  • They provide a range of modern internet speeds, including those that are 100mbps and greater
  • SpitwSpots peers directly in Alaska with both Alaska Communications and GCI.  Meaning, if you do work in-state, your traffic doesn’t have to go to the lower 48 and back.
  • SpitwSpots provides full installation support, meaning the customer doesn’t need technical knowledge to use their services.
  • The network is generally considered “fast,” that is if you can get a reliable connection from them.
  • Plans are somewhat reasonable cost-wise, but the higher end plans are expensive.  Especially when they don’t deliver it.

SpitwSpots Cons:

  • Our personal experience resulted in nothing close to rated speeds, poor quality of service and general poor communications with support
  • Technical issues are not resolved quickly as they remotely support the network from Homer, Alaska.
  • Speeds were highly variable, often being inadequate for basic internet needs in our case.
  • The company struggles with very cold temperatures and inherent knowledge of the area, given that it’s supported from far away.
  • The company uses high pressure sales tactics to try and “get the sale.”
  • Installation is somewhat expensive, requiring a $199 installation fee or commitment to a two year contract.
  • No inexpensive plans for something like a backup internet connection.

Starlink was expanded into the Fairbanks area in 2022.  Starlink is a satellite internet company operated by SpaceX Technologies that is owned by Elon Musk.

Starlink uses what are called low earth orbit satellites to provide service.  There are many thousands of their satellites in orbit around the earth, some of which provide internet to northern areas like Alaska.

Internet from Starlink requires some technical knowledge.  You will need to order a kit from Starlink and install the antenna yourself.  While it’s not extremely difficult to do so, some users may find it too difficult.

You may also be able to contract a local installer to help you.  Microcom advertises such services.  So, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of self-install, you might be able to pay to get it done.

One of the biggest obstacles for Starlink is the initial buy-in cost.  The entry level kit is $599.  You may need additional parts or mounts, further raising the cost.  Starlink recommends the high performance dish for Alaskans, which goes for $2,500!

The antenna will need unobscured visibility to some of the sky.  Therefore, it may not work well at all properties, especially those with heavy tree cover.

Starlink Pros:

  • In general, Starlink provides relatively fast internet services, typically between 30mbps and 250mbps.
  • Starlink is providing faster internet services than most of the other carriers in Fairbanks.  (All except for GCI)
  • Low earth orbit based internet is one of the newest forms of internet delivery out there.
  • Very different from traditional satellite internet, so don’t allow your understanding of traditional technology to influence your decision.

Starlink Cons:

  • Requires self-installation, some technical knowledge and unobstructed visibility to some portions of the sky.
  • There have been reliability issues and even today, services are known to occasionally drop out.
  • Speeds are not guaranteed and may vary, quite significantly, based on demand and availability
  • Latency can also be quite variable, which can make it less than ideal for gaming.
  • Starlink does not have a “primary focus” on providing Alaskans with internet.  They are much more focused on the more profitable lower latitudes.
  • Support is only available online via a portal.  There is no such thing as on site support or phone support.  You might actually be dealing with a robot.
  • Initial equipment investment is quite high, typically a minimum of $600.

Other Satellite Internet Providers

Fairbanks has a long history of internet service delivery via satellite communications.  This often is the “technology of last resort” in the event services can’t be achieved otherwise

Hughesnet is largely the default satellite internet provider in the Fairbanks area.  It requires professional installation, typically through a local provider like Microcom.

Due to the geosynchronous nature of the high earth orbit satellites, this technology has high latency.  This can often make the internet feel “slow” regardless of the speed available to you.

Plans often feature relatively low data caps.  In recent times, they have at least done away with automatic over usage charges.  Speeds can often reach 50mpbs to 100mbps, but note the comment above about latency.

Hughesnet does not publish Alaska based internet connectivity costs.  You need to work with them to get pricing.  In general, you can expect it to be expensive for what you get.

Traditional satellite communications do the get a lot of “hate” and much of it is deserved.  Much of it is due to historic practices and poor network delivery.  But, they have a place and may be your only option.

We would encourage you to exhaust all other options before considering this as your internet service.

In general, service requires relatively unobstructed access to the southern horizon.

Hughesnet Pros:

  • Can sometimes service locations that are unserviceable by other technologies.
  • Generally considered fairly reliable.
  • Professionally installed, meaning the user doesn’t need deep technical knowledge to get service.

Hughesnet Cons:

  • Plans are often expensive and also feature lengthy service contracts.
  • High latency connection, meaning the connection will feel slow.
  • Network has historically been heavily oversubscribed, meaning users don’t get advertised speeds.
  • Requires a more complex technical installation, requiring line of sight and technical expertise.
  • A lot of complaints about business practices, speeds, cost and other general issues

Obscure Internet Providers

All of the internet service providers mentioned above are considered the “mainstream” across Fairbanks.

There are some small, niche players that service some locations.  They are worth contacting if the carriers above can’t get you service.

AC Wireless, a division of AlasConnect, has been a wireless provider in Fairbanks for many years.  This business may be defunct at this time as their website is no longer operational.  Historically, they provided very low bandwidth plans at substantial cost.

Ace Tekk Wireless has also been a wireless internet provider in Fairbanks for many years.  In general, they offer comparably low speed connections at moderate price points.  In some cases, they can service locations that other providers cannot.

FCC Broadband Maps & Availability

In some cases, you might be able to get some insight into what carriers can service your location.

The FCC broadband map provides address level data about what the carriers report as their coverage footprint.

Do be aware that this map can be wildly inaccurate.  It also doesn’t show every possible provider that may be able to service your location.

If you know of an inaccuracy, we would strongly encourage you to file a challenge with the FCC.  These inaccurate maps lead to vast mal-investment of federal funds.

Your best bet to determine availability is to contact the company you want to get service from.  They will be able to assess their capabilities better than the above maps will.

Anything Else?

Hopefully we’ve covered the gamut of the internet service provider landscape in Fairbanks, Alaska.

We hope this helps you get internet access at your home or homestead!

Should you have any questions or thoughts, do feel free to put a comment down below and we’ll try to get back to you.

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