The Keystone Telco of Copper River


  • Autumn Plane

    Spanning 300 miles of rugged Alaskan wilderness, the Copper River is well known for its salmon runs. The highly-prized fish are a keystone species in that they’re pivotal to the development of their ecosystem. One could say the same thing about Copper Valley Telephone Cooperative (CVTC), a south-central Alaskan telco that has proudly connected its rural residents for more than 50 years.

    And that connectivity is no small feat. As CVTC CEO Dave Dengel explained in a recent interview with Telco Americana host Steve Gleave, in the service area of Valdez alone, the company provides connectivity to roughly 4,000 residents across 200 miles of land and 55 miles of water with an average annual snowfall of 325.6 inches. “We operate in some of the most beautiful areas in the country, but also some of the most remote,” said Dengel.

    The elements haven’t slowed down CVTC, though. In addition to employing a fleet of helicopters to reach some of its most remote service areas, the company has worked tirelessly to provide the Copper River Valley with high-speed Internet. How tirelessly? According to Dengel, CVTC has approximately 9,600 square miles of wireline, 15,000 square miles of wireless, and 360 route miles of fiber—and “where we can’t get that fiber, we put microwave in.”


    In addition to high-speed Internet, CVTC is also in the mobile broadband business. About a year ago, the company partnered with Verizon to introduce 4G LTE to rural Alaska, and currently, “24 of our 33 sites are 4G LTE capable,” said Dengel during the interview. With the 4G LTE connectivity, folks in “the middle of nowhere”—even commercial fishing fleets—can access impressive speeds—a key “competitive advantage” for CVTC.


    Thanks to this telco, residents enjoy high-speed Internet and mobile broadband in one of the most wild and remote areas of the United States. These reasons might explain why the NTCA-Rural Broadband Association awarded CVTC—along with 14 other telecommunications companies—with the Smart Rural Award this past September. According to Dengel, though, CVTC didn’t receive the award simply for the “area that we serve and the services we’re providing to them,” but also for the company’s percentage of connected customers: “83% of the population in our service area is connected to high-speed broadband which is higher than even…rural America,” said Dengel.


    Another reason why CVTC won the award, surmises Dengel, is its partnerships with schools and community services. For example, CVTC provided Glennallen High School with the equipment necessary to record athletic events and stream them online, thus giving families a chance to watch their student athletes compete during away games. Even more nifty, the company converted some of Glennallen’s school buses into mobile hotspots, so that students could complete homework during their often lengthy commutes.


    While the company’s efforts are certainly award-worthy, Dengel assures us that it’s all in a day’s work. The company is a co-op, after all. “We live and breathe that co-op mentality—that we’re here to actually serve our customers…they’re entitled to have state of the art telecommunications services at an affordable rate…” As our interview host Steve Gleave explains during the interview, like the famed salmon of this region, CVTC is certainly a keystone member of the ecosystem. However, there’s nothing fishy about the dedication, sincerity, and innovativeness of this all-American telco.


    Did you notice the photo above?’ It’s called “Autumn Plane” and it was taken / submitted by Tom Lenort, winner of the CVTC photo contest,

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One Response to The Keystone Telco of Copper River

  1. Ken Pyle November 2, 2015 at 9:47 AM #

    Nice write-up and great interview. Very astute observation Steve about Copper Valley being a “keystone” part of the economic ecosystem in the area they serve.

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