GCI hit with cut to federal support
General Communications Inc., a major Alaska telecom provider, will see federal payments to support rural health internet service of $77.8 million next year, or $28 million less than the company requested to cover its costs. The new rate finding follows a proceeding involving support payments under the Federal Communication Commission’s Rural Health Care program where the FCC paid subsidies to Alaska telecom operators to cover cost differential between internet service to rural health clinics and urban clinics. An FCC investigation found that some of the Alaska telecoms were inflating their rural rates. GCI has objected to the decision, saying it forces the company to absorb the costs after GCI has invested heavily in rural communications infrastructure. Last June the FCC increased the available funding for the Alaska rural health care support from $400 million per year to $571 million, and then to $581 million with an inflation adjustment.