Skip to main content
Shopping cart: items Cart

Distributed for University of Alaska Press

Connecting Alaskans

Telecommunications in Alaska from Telegraph to Broadband

Distributed for University of Alaska Press

Connecting Alaskans

Telecommunications in Alaska from Telegraph to Broadband

“Alaska is now open to civilization.” With those six words in 1900, the northernmost territory finally had a connection with the rest of the country. The telegraph system put in place by the US Army Signal Corps heralded  the start of Alaska’s communication network. Yet, as hopeful as that message was, Alaska faced decades of infrastructure challenges as remote locations, extreme weather, and massive distances all contributed to less-than-ideal conditions for establishing reliable telecommunications.

Connecting Alaskans tells the unique history of providing radio, television, phone, and Internet services to more than six hundred thousand square miles. It is a history of a place where military needs often trumped civilian ones, where ham radios offered better connections than telephone lines, and where television shows aired an entire day later than in the rest of the country.

Heather E. Hudson covers more than a century of successes while clearly explaining the connection problems still faced by remote communities today. Her comprehensive history is perfect for anyone interested in telecommunications technology and history, and she provides an important template for policy makers, rural communities, and developing countries struggling to develop their own twenty-first-century infrastructure.

380 pages | 20 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Economics and Business: Economics--History

History: General History

University of Alaska Press image

View all books from University of Alaska Press


“An exceedingly well-referenced history of telecommunications in Alaska, from the very first telegraph networks deployed in the 1860s to the broadband networks of the 21st century. The work is notable for the way in which it interweaves the descriptions of the extreme technical challenges faced in deploying a range of different communications technologies in physically extreme environments with the life-changing applications that those infrastructures have brought to rural Alaskans.”

Telecommunications Policy

"Connecting Alaskans is a timely contribution to international discussions about the transformational power of broadband. Effective telecommunication links have the power to erase distance as a barrier and in vast geographic areas like the Arctic, that is incredibly important to the safety, health, education and economies of rural residents. Hudson has provided the historical and analytical perspective for readers to better understand what has happened in the 20th Century and what needs to happen in the 21st Century to carry on the tradition of innovation."

Fran Ulmer, chair of the US Arctic Research Commission; former chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage; and former lieutenant governor of Alaska

"It wasn't long ago that Alaskans watched the evening news the next day, and personal messages were delivered to people in remote communities by radio shows called 'Tundra Telegraph" or 'Caribou Clatter.' Alaska's leadership in adopting new telecommunications technologies has helped link the whole world. Hudson's history comes from both a scholar and an expert who helped make giant leaps happen in a single generation."

Mead Treadwell, lieutenant governor of Alaska, 2010–2014

"Connecting Alaskans is a riveting story of how the people of a distant, isolated, and inhospitable land overcame isolation to emerge as leaders in adopting new digital ways of doing things, from telemedicine to distance education and government. It is also a book whose importance goes far beyond one state and one technology. As Hudson shows in masterly fashion, Alaska has been a major success story for public and private sector collaboration in infrastructure, and a model that applies to other regions and platforms around the world.  For all concerned with economic development, this book is an essential guide."

Eli Noam, professor of finance and economics and director of the Columbia Institute of Tele-Information, Columbia University Business School

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Alaska’s First Information Highway
3. Expansion of Telecommunications after World War II
4. Early Broadcasting
5. Privatizing the Alaska Communications System
6. The Beginning of the Satellite Era
7. The NASA Satellite Experiments
8. From Satellite Experiments to Commercial Service
9. Telephone Service for Every Village
10. Broadcasting and Teleconferencing for Rural Alaska
11. Rural Television: From RATNET to ARCS
12. Deregulation and Disruption
13. State Planning and Policy
14. Alaska’s Local Telephone Companies
15. The Phone Wars
16. Distance Education and eLearning: From Satellites to the Internet
17. Telemedicine in Alaska
18. The Growth of Mobile and Broadband
19. Past and Future Connections
Abbreviations and Acronyms

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press