May 14, 2001

StarBand High-Speed Internet via Satellite Reaches the Arctic Circle

May 14, 2001  NR 09-01

StarBand and the University of Alaska Partner to Provide Distance Learning Opportunities to Isolated Alaska Communities

McLean, Virginia and Fairbanks, Alaska, - May 14, 2001 – StarBand Communications Inc. today announced that in partnership with the University of Alaska (UA) and the Alaska Distance Learning and Technology Consortium, it has launched the StarBand 2001 Distance Learning Project in some of the most remote regions of Alaska. The introduction of this educational initiative coincides with the commercial availability of the StarBand service to all Alaskans.

From the northernmost tip of the continent to isolated villages on Prince of Wales Island, StarBand and UA are providing satellite-delivered high-speed Internet access to underserved rural villages to help ensure that all students, regardless of their geographical location, have equal access to educational opportunities.

“Many voices have joined the chorus of concern that rural America does not have equal access to educational opportunities,” said Zur Feldman, Co-Chairman and CEO of StarBand Communications. “Many have pledged to serve them, but we are actually delivering the goods by snowmachine, floatplane, whatever means we have available to us. Two weeks ago we installed StarBand in Barrow, Alaska. We now have StarBand operating from the bottom of the Grand Canyon in the lower 48 to the northernmost tip of the continent above the Arctic Circle.”

StarBand is launching its Distance Learning Project to help educational facilities create or expand their Distance-Education Programs. Within Alaska, where geographical barriers limit educational opportunities in many communities, UA welcomed the opportunity to partner with StarBand and use satellite-delivered Internet to overcome what President Mark Hamilton describes as the “tyranny of distance.”

“Across Alaska we have difficulty with access to technology because there is such uneven distribution of capability, particularly in rural areas of the state,” Hamilton said. “StarBand’s Distance Learning Project will give us the opportunity to see how well satellite delivered Internet will serve the learning community in Alaska. The University and the Consortium are pleased that StarBand chose Alaska for this initiative, and we hope it will help fill the gaps necessary to realize the vision of affordable access to all communities in the state.”

In conjunction with the Distance Learning and Technology Consortium, chaired by President Hamilton, UA and StarBand selected 25 sites across the state with a diversity of educational needs. In Barrow, at the request of the local community college, Ilisagvik College, StarBand was installed at the local library located in the Inupiat Heritage Center. In the city of Sitka, the system was installed at Sheldon Jackson College, a small college of 300 students established to provide higher education opportunities for Alaska Native students. And, on Prince of Wales Island at the southernmost tip of the state, StarBand is operational in three small communities, providing Hollis- population 198- with its first Internet connectivity.

“I see the availability of Internet connectivity for the villagers to be very beneficial to the Inupiat,” stated Edna Ahgeak MacLean, President of Ilisagvik College. “They will be able to stay in their villages, gain access to information that they need, but also be in their villages able to do the hunting, the fishing and the whaling, instead of having to leave for urban centers to gain an education.”

The StarBand 2001 Distance Learning Initiative

Last October, before it had even officially launched its service, StarBand joined with Northern Arizona University (NAU) to install 120 systems providing the Navajo Nation, Hopi and Havasupai tribes with their first access to the Internet. The service received a hugely enthusiastic reception from these isolated communities. “A dream has come true” according to Sally Talousi, the head of the Havasupai Head Start program located on the floor of the Grand Canyon. Realizing that its technology could usher in a new era for Distance Education providers, StarBand decided to expand the initiative and within months the StarBand 2001 Distance Learning Initiative had become a reality.

In March, StarBand and NAU worked together to provide hospitality and restaurant training to students living on the Fort Mojave Reservation and the Colorado River Indian Tribes Reservation. Tourism and hospitality are Arizona’s largest industries and many of the popular resorts and gaming facilities are located on Native American reservations. Although Flagstaff-based NAU is credited as one of the nation’s top 10 schools in hospitality related studies, many Native Americans find the financial requirements and the cultural adjustment of attending classes on campus to be a significant barrier. StarBand is enabling these tribal students to take advantage of the first-ever, online hospitality training tailored to the considerations of Native American learning styles and cultural appropriateness. This training will include an introduction to hospitality careers, job readiness and cross-cultural awareness.

Serving rural and Native Alaskans became the next challenge for the Distance Learning Project and StarBand immediately identified a partner in the University of Alaska. A leader in the effort to transform education through the utilization of new technologies, UA saw the opportunity to greatly expand its existing distance learning network. Working with the Alaska Distance Education and Technology Consortium, a group aligned with the University, 25 sites were identified. Each site is home to an educational or training center that provides service to remote Alaska communities and can benefit greatly from high-speed Internet access.

StarBand and UA anticipate that all 25 sites will be operational within the month. The StarBand service also launches to Alaska residents on May 15, 2001. It will be sold by DISH dealers throughout the state as well as other StarBand authorized dealers.

About the University of Alaska

The University of Alaska is the only public, postsecondary institution in Alaska, a state which is onefifth the size of the contiguous U. S. The system has three regional university centers: University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.
In addition to the three major campuses, there are 12 community campuses around Alaska to provide education, job training and economic opportunity through both classroom and distance delivery instruction. The system serves a total of about 32,000 students.

Alaska was still a territory in 1915 when the U. S. Congress set aside federal lands near Fairbanks for a land-grant college. In 1917, Alaska’s territorial legislature approved a statute establishing the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, which opened in 1922. In 1935, the institution was renamed the University of Alaska.

About the Alaska Distance Education Technology Consortium

Through the efforts of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, the U. S. Congress established the Alaska Distance Education Technology Consortium. The Consortium’s charge is to:

  • Review the current and future distance education and technology needs for the State of Alaska;
  • Determine the role of educators, telecommunication companies, community organizations, government agencies, and other stakeholders in meeting these needs;
  • Develop a long-term distance education and technology strategic plan, including benchmarks for evaluation, that more effectively develops, coordinates, enhances, and expands distance education opportunities as well as Alaska’s information technology infrastructure;
  • Provide to Sen. Stevens and the Alaska Congressional Delegation a final Consortium report this year.

In addition to the University of Alaska, the Consortium includes Alaska Libraries, Archives and Museums, Alaska Vocational Technical Center, Sheldon Jackson College, Alaska Council of School Administrators, the Alaska Department of Education, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, Secondary School Principals Association, Ilisagvik College in Barrow, Elementary School Principals Association, Kenai Peninsula Borough and School District, Alaska Pacific University, Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, and the Alaska Municipal League. UA President Hamilton is chair of the Consortium.

About StarBand Communications Inc.

StarBand Communications Inc. is America’s first nationwide provider of two-way, always-on, highspeed Internet access via satellite to residential and small office/home office customers. Founded in early 2000, StarBand’s investors and strategic partners include Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd., Microsoft Corporation and EchoStar Communications Corporation. StarBand Communications is based in McLean, Virginia. Visit StarBand at StarBand is a trademark and service mark of StarBand Communications Inc.

Note to Editors: Images of this project are available for download at; videotape B-roll is also available.

Sandy Colony
StarBand Communications

Bob Miller
University of Alaska