The cable vessel Ile de Sein is on its way to the North Slope, where soon it'll lay hundreds of miles of fiber optic cable for the Quintillion high-speed internet project.
Before shipping out this weekend, though, the vessel stopped in Unalaska to host a group of Quintillion's investors, industry partners, and other supporters — including Governor Bill Walker.
It was Walker's first trip to Unalaska in two years. He said he came to get a closer look at one of the ships bringing better internet to rural Alaska.
"Alaska is changing," said Walker. "Alaska is changing because the Arctic is opening up. So to be able to have this opportunity for Alaska — the connectivity with the rest of the world with the high-speed internet this is going to provide — it's pretty exciting."
Walker wasn't the only high-profile guest. The Ile de Sein also welcomed Alaska Senator Donny Olson (D-Golovin) as well as representatives from the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the Calista Corporation, and ConocoPhillips.
Quintillion hasn't confirmed the names of its customers in the telecom industry, but CEO Elizabeth Pierce said representatives from OTZ Telephone Cooperative, TelAlaska, AT&T, and Verizon also toured the ship.
While Quintillion is still focused on finishing the first phase of the cable system this summer, Pierce said her team is already considering where to expand next. They haven't made any decisions yet, but she said they're looking at future Alaska landing sites beyond the original six in Nome, Kotzebue, Wainwright, Point Hope, Barrow, and Prudhoe Bay.
"We've gotten the message loud and clear, and we'll see what we can do to make Dutch Harbor a future landing," said Pierce.
For now, though, the Ile de Sein is traveling to Wainwright. The ship will arrive toward the end of the week and start laying 1,500 tons of fiber optic cable along the North Slope. Meanwhile, its sister ship — the Ile de Brehat — has finished the landing site at Nome and is now heading north through the Bering Strait.
Pierce said the Quintillion project is still on schedule to deliver high-speed internet in the first quarter of 2017.