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High-Speed Networks: Leveraging Civilian Infrastructure Vital for US Military Advantages in the Arctic

Photo: C4ISRNet

In an era where high-speed networks are the lifeblood of modern communication and information sharing, a recent incident in the icy waters off Alaska’s north slope shed light on the critical role of broadband internet in national security.

High-Speed Network: Leveraging Civilian Infrastructure Vital for US Military Advantages in the Arctic (Photo: Defense News)

Strategic Importance of Alaska’s High-Speed Networks

In a recent development published by C4ISRNet, in October 05, 2023, when a submarine fiber optic cable was severed by encroaching sea ice, it left residents of Nome and neighboring communities without high-speed networks for weeks. While this inconvenience of high-speed networks might seem minor, it underscores the growing significance of telecommunications infrastructure, not just for everyday life but also for the security of the entire nation.

Alaska, with its unique geographical position and vast military presence, plays a pivotal role in U.S. national security. The state is home to nine military installations, including the Alaska Command and the Alaska NORAD Region, responsible for coordinating defense activities and monitoring airspace for incoming threats needs high-speed networks. Moreover, Alaska houses a substantial portion of the country’s missile defense capabilities, vital for detecting and neutralizing potential intercontinental ballistic missile threats. As the Arctic region gains strategic importance due to increased global competition, Alaska’s role in national defense becomes even more pronounced.

The Arctic is experiencing a transformation, both in terms of climate change and geopolitical significance. With Russia and China asserting their influence in the region, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes the need for heightened all-domain awareness. This awareness encompasses air, surface, and subsurface domains, requiring robust high-speed networks telecommunications infrastructure for data sharing, decision-making, and command and control. Collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors in expanding and fortifying Alaska’s telecom high-speed networks are crucial. Such investments not only benefit indigenous communities but also strengthen the security of U.S. forces operating in the Arctic, aligning with DoD’s strategic goals.

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Incentivizing Telecom Infrastructure Investment

According to the report released by Defense News, to achieve the necessary resiliency and redundancy in Alaskan high-speed networks  telecommunications systems, governments at both state and federal levels must incentivize private industry participation. This may involve grants, tax incentives, or other measures to encourage companies to establish infrastructure suitable for both civilian and military use. The challenges of operating in Alaska should be met with rewards for innovation and risk-taking.

Furthermore, a technology-agnostic approach that considers terrestrial, submarine, and space-based telecom systems can yield synergies and maximize the utility of investments. For the U.S. to maintain its competitive edge in the evolving landscape of Great Power competition, it is imperative that the Secretary of Defense advocates for the appropriation of funds to secure high-speed networks broadband access in Alaska and safeguard national security interests.

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