Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay

The abundant oil and gas resources in this region have brought significant income to the Borough, the State and to the companies and employees that work the oilfields. The advent of the Prudhoe Bay development operations, following the discovery wells in the late 1960’s, had a significant impact on regional telecommunications. Until that time the conventional wisdom dictated that local and regional telephone service in all the Arctic Slope communities was not possible. The rapid implementation of telecommunications services, as the oilfield development and pipeline construction projects were carried out, served to contradict this wisdom. With the combining of the petroleum industry and village resident members in a utility cooperative, the new telephone service became feasible and was launched in 1980. It has been growing and improving ever since. The Prudhoe Bay district, centered on the commercial airport support facilities at Deadhorse, is the industrial business portion of the nine North Slope communities served by the Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative (ASTAC) and its subsidiary companies. This district, unlike the more compact, traditional residential communities, is spread over a very large area with a number of discrete facility bases connected to the public switched network via the ASTAC

central office at Deadhorse. The east to west span of the overall service area is 125 miles from the new oil fields at Alpine on the west to Point Thompson on the east. The north to south distance approaches 40 miles from Milne Point and the off-shore islands to the first miles of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) which continues south, across Alaska, to the port facility at Valdez. This complex is linked, for telecommunications purposes, by a combination of buried wire, microwave, radio, satellite and, more recently, arrival of fiber optic cable on the scene connecting Deadhorse and Valdez. The population and activity levels in the Prudhoe Bay district can vary greatly. The need to constantly relocate drilling and support facilities together with the seasonal nature of many projects causes personnel – and entire organizations – to come and go as needed. Needless to say, the provision of local telephone service becomes a challenge in flexibility and perseverance. The technical requirements are also demanding since the industry itself operates state-of-the-art facilities internally and expects to be met with compatible service on the public switched network side. Deadhorse is served by passenger jet service from Anchorage and Fairbanks.

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