Annual Report

2020 Annual Report

Welcome to the 2020 Annual Report.

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Introduction

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CEO Message

A Message from our CEO,
Michael Burke.

In Alaska and throughout the world, it’s been a year with challenges woven into nearly every moment. There was nothing that affected Alaskan communities and businesses in the last year more than the COVID-19 pandemic; from hopping on a plane to dropping our children off at school, there were new rules, new worries and sometimes a frustrating lack of clarity.

These challenges have also turned the past year into one full of new opportunities and finding unique ways to connect, such as a virtual gaming tournament that brought together participants throughout Alaska, or even this first-ever digital annual report for valued members like yourself.

We rallied together to make sure that your way of life wasn’t completely upended.

MTA’s spirit of resilience through rugged terrain didn’t just begin this past year. We’ve been proud to help Alaskans through challenging situations, from natural disasters such as earthquakes and wildfires through more evolutionary changes in the world we live in, such as the adoption of streaming.

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MTA Leadership

Michael Burke

Chief Executive Officer

MTA’s CEO has over 37 years of experience in professional consulting and senior management in the telecom and utility sectors. Under his leadership, the company has increased revenues and membership, acquired AlasConnect, an IT Cybersecurity company with offices in Anchorage and Fairbanks, built AlCan ONE, the first all-terrestrial fiber network to the Lower 48, and grown the employee base at MTA. Michael served on the Alaska Exchange Carriers Association Board of Directors, Alaska Exchange Carrier Association Tariff and Rate Development Committee, the Alaska Telecom Association Board of Directors, where he just completed a term as its President, and was the Alaska Broadband Task Force Peer Reviewer. Prior to MTA, Michael ran his own management/utility consulting company for 14 years, where he worked on a number of regulatory and strategic projects and also served as an expert witness before regulatory agencies in Alaska, California and Hawaii.  Michael has a BA in Accounting from Seattle University and is a CPA in the State of Alaska.

Wanda Tankersley

Chief Operating Officer

Wanda Tankersley has been the Chief Operating Officer for MTA since April 2017, serving as the company’s Chief Financial Officer for eight years prior. She is a registered CPA with over 25 years of accounting and financial experience and more than 11 years of experience in the telecom and utility sectors. Her responsibilities range from developing long-term strategic direction, corporate goals, policies, and objectives for the company to ensure a high level of success and sustainability. She is a member of the American Institute for Public Accountants, and serves on the NTCA Innovation Business Opportunity Committee. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Western Washington University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a minor in Business.

Laurie Browning

Chief Financial Officer

Laurie Browning has been with MTA since 2001 and has served as the Chief Financial Officer since 2018. Preceding her current role, she held the positions of Accounting Associate, General Ledger Accountant and Controller for the company. She has over 35 years of experience in finance, with 18 years spent in telecom accounting, responsible for financial statement preparation, fixed assets, treasury, revenue and co-operative accounting. She received a Specialized Associate Accounting degree from Ricks College, where her studies included advanced accounting, cost accounting, tax accounting, computer programming, internal auditing, and business-related options.

Group Photo
From left to right: Wanda, Laurie and Michael.
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A Message from our Board

The primary goal of a co-op is for the organization to act as one, with everyone on the same page on how it should move forward, grow and help out the members. The Board of Director’s unique role in this structure is to represent membership and do everything we can to ensure the quality of MTA’s service to members.

With that in mind, it’s remarkable to look back on how dedicated and involved the entire MTA organization was throughout 2020, from the CEO and COO, to each and every member. This co-op didn’t just serve members in an exemplary, high-quality manner during one of the most difficult times in our state’s history, but it continued to create, build and innovate.

The Mat-Su Valley is diverse in many ways but particularly in our community members’ ways of life. We’ve been mindful of the members who rely on MTA to help their children learn, apply for new jobs, make vaccine appointments and more, and the last year was a reminder that the internet is more than just a convenience used to get information – it’s a need.

MTA was one of the first telecom companies to sign on to the national Keep Americans Connected Pledge, which urged telecom companies to not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills, waive late fees and more. Internally, we were a community leader in terms of adopting a safe and smart work-from-home policy.

Through the rugged logistics that we faced in 2020, we were proud to continue prioritizing partnerships with the community, in addition to providing high-quality internet service to everyone who needs it. It’s been heartwarming to see MTA branch out with initiatives like the Gaming Tournament and the Palmer Historic Photo Project, while opening the door for the next generation of tech leaders through the MTA Foundation’s scholarships and grants.

The MTA team met the always-changing needs of our community and members in a variety of ways, including continually investing in new products, and discontinuing products that were no longer meeting our customers’ needs.

With the telecom industry on an exponential curve from a technology standpoint, we have to be proactive in order to provide the highest-quality service, not just reactive. Organizations need to be looking five, ten or more years down the road, and between projects like AlCan ONE and MTA Shield, MTA is thinking ahead for its members. We even have a department whose job is to look down the road and track potential impactful projects, as well as the cost and needs for those.

AlCan ONE was a project enormous in scope as well as opportunity for MTA and its members and is truly one of the most exciting telecom projects we’ve seen in Alaskan history. This historic accomplishment provides opportunity that we wouldn’t otherwise have. MTA could’ve just continued with smaller, more standard projects, but CEO Michael Burke and the rest of the team had a big vision that was expertly executed.

We’ve been thrilled to see membership continue to grow over the last several years and we’re so excited about the products and projects that we’ll be collectively working together on throughout 2021.

MTA’s Board, executives, employees and members all come together when it counts the most, and we grow and adapt together when the situation calls for it.

Ken Kincaid

Ken Kincaid

Chief Governance Officer

Ken Kincaid is a born and raised Alaskan, with deep roots in the Valley and an extensive history as a business owner and employer. With a keen interest in real estate and almost two decades of experience in commercial real estate, Director Kincaid became the youngest of his peers to receive the MAI designation by the Appraisal Institute. He’s served as an MTA Board member since the start of 2019, and provided seasoned business experience as the company set-out on its ambitious plan for AlCan ONE. Ken is honored to serve as the Chief Governance Officer of this dynamic board and remains committed to helping the team assimilate the immense and complex information on new business ventures as it continues to play an integral part in the socio-economic development of the Mat-Su Borough and beyond.

Nicholas J Begich III

Nicholas J. Begich III

Director

Nicholas J. Begich III has proudly served as an MTA Board member for the past five years, witnessing the company grow its membership after a period of decline, construct the first-of-its-kind network to the Lower 48 and roll out more fiber connections than any telecom firm in Alaska. Having spent time with a variety of large and small businesses alike, his life’s work has been dedicated to helping businesses develop and grow, creating value for customers, employees and shareholders in the process. He’s currently the CEO and Founder of FarShore Partners, a firm delivering web, mobile and e-commerce technology solutions to hundreds of clients across the globe. As a Director on the Board, he remains committed to working hard to ensure MTA continues to meet not only tomorrow’s infrastructure needs, but does so in a way that supports the growing needs of the business and the community at large.

John Warner

Director

Long-time Wasilla resident and Air Force veteran John Warner was elected in 2020 to the MTA Board. Warner possesses upwards of two decades in the financial services realm, currently functioning as both a Financial Advisor for Edward Jones Investments, and adjunct faculty member for Mat-Su Community College, teaching classes in sales management and personal investing. Prior to this, he served in the United States Air Force from 1968-1993. Much like MTA, Warner has placed an emphasis on the importance of educational initiatives, whether that’s to increase either tech or financial literacy, within the community.

Roxy Mayberry

Roxie Mayberry

Board Secretary

Roxie Mayberry moved to Alaska in 2007.  In 2008 she worked as a sales supervisor for MTA and has since served as an MTA Board member for the past five years. For the past 29 years,  Roxie has been a small business owner and is currently the owner of Focus on Sponsorship LLC, a marketing and consulting agency in Palmer, AK. She’s played an active role within the community for more than 13 years and currently serves as the Northwest Region Cooperative Director of the NTCA Rural Broadband Association. As Board Secretary and MTA Foundation Vice President, Roxie is devoted to giving back to the community and looks forward to continuing to bring the MTA service areas into the future through technology and broadband.

Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman

Director

Thomas Newman moved to Alaska in 1975 and has made his home in three of MTA’s service areas – Eagle River, Chugiak and the Mat-Su Valley – for over 45 years now. Newman is the founder, as well as a Director and past president of TerraSond Limited, a geospatial firm founded and headquartered in Palmer, AK, with five offices nationwide and project experience across the U.S. and in 30 countries around the globe. He’s served as an MTA Board member for three years, utilizing his in-depth business experience to help the company derive innovative solutions for the communities it serves. Newman also lends his professional expertise to the University of Alaska, Geomatics Advisory Board and serves as a member on The Hydrographic Society of America (THSOA) Hydrographic Certification Review Board.

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Covid-19 Assistance

Talkeetna

+ Over 50 students and educators upgraded

Talkeetna
Willow

+ Over 120 students and educators upgraded

Willow
Houston

+ Complimentary and safe drive up wifi location for public use

+ Over 30 students and educators upgraded

Houston
Wasilla

+ Multiple complimentary and safe drive up wifi locations for public use

+ Over 1200 students and educators upgraded

+ Upgrades and relief offered to Mat-Su Borough and employees

Wasilla
Palmer

+ Complimentary and safe drive up wifi locations for public use

+ Over 650 students and educators upgraded

+ Upgrades and relief offered to Mat-Su Borough and employees

Palmer
Eagle River

+ Over 100 educators and students upgraded

Eagle River
Chugiak

+ Nearly 300 students and educators upgraded

Chugiak

Though the COVID-19 pandemic took us all by storm, MTA and our partners throughout the community made sure Alaska stayed resilient.

Whether it is a business, nonprofit, school, co-op or government entity, it’s incumbent upon all of us to do everything in our power to make sure all Alaskans have access to a reliable, high-speed internet connection, and that’s why we’re proud to have set up dozens of public WiFi hotspots around our service area so no one had to be deprived of the internet access they may have relied on at school or at work.

We also worked tirelessly to make sure area students had reliable, high-speed internet connections at home so their education would not be interrupted. Likewise, our work keeping Mat-Su Borough offices connected ensured that the essential work of managing our local government continued uninterrupted.

Building on these new or enhanced connections, we announced a new initiative in conjunction with the Mat-Su Borough School District and supported in part by the Mat-Su Health Foundation, providing eligible district families access to reduced-cost internet, ensuring students’ connectivity for online education.

Around every corner, we’ve seen Alaskans persevere and adapt to the new realities of our day-to-day life. At MTA, we’ve strived to do the same within every corner of the organization, from building out state-of-the-art remote operations for our sales and customer service teams to ensuring a smart and sensible remote work policy to ensure safety remained at the forefront for both our employees and members.

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AlCan ONE

In terms of innovation, we were proud to complete one of the most massive projects in MTA’s history in the midst of this challenging time, the historic Alaska Canada Overland Network (AlCan ONE) project, the first all-terrestrial fiber network from Alaska to the Lower 48.

AlCan ONE began construction in spring 2019, and with its completion, it establishes a fiber connection to any point in the Lower 48. Running nearly 300 miles from North Pole, Alaska, to the Canadian border, it then connects with Canadian internet carriers, extending MTA’s existing network through Canada and on to major hubs throughout the U.S.

The successful, safe and efficient completion of this project means that Alaska will have a secure and reliable connection—not just to each other, but to the rest of the world—for decades to come.

AlCan ONE is not just a win for MTA – it is a win for all of the people and businesses of Alaska. We could not have completed this groundbreaking project without the help of other telecom carriers, communities, businesses and legislators who helped make this possible, and we’re confident that the benefits of this highly successful project will be felt by all.

We look forward to working with businesses and communities across the state to plant even more seeds for the success of Alaska’s internet future and for you, our members.

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New Product Launches

Solving the Needs of our Members

MTA’s projects don’t have to be large-scale for them to make a big impact on our members. We stayed busy in 2020 rolling out a slew of new products that will make your day-to-day lives—at home or in the office—more secure and easier to navigate.

While our totalWiFi product helped members manage all of their connected devices through a sleek gateway and Unified Communications provided a cloud-based integration of multiple communication devices allowing members to connect using any device, anywhere, we also wanted to make sure we were making technology usage as secure as possible for our members on a micro level.

To address that, we launched MTA Shield, a new suite of three apps that provide total device protection. These apps work in conjunction with each other and allow our members to take charge of their network security. Our product team has been proud to take an outside-in approach to this development and every other type of problem-solving by getting out of the office to better understand our members, which our product specialist Zak Wolf wrote about after the products’ launch.

Zak, who not long ago was a young student dreaming of a career focused in technology, is now leading the way in the development of products like MTA Shield, and has paid it forward by visiting Mat-Su Career & Technical High School to help inspire young students to follow their dreams, like he did.

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MTA Gaming

Bringing Alaskan Gamers Together

Despite the physical separation that we all had to grapple with over the last year, we knew that students—like everyone else—were searching for ways to connect with their community. That’s why we made sure our annual MTA Gaming Tournament could go on. This virtual event also provided students in the Alaskan community (and beyond) the unique opportunity to connect with each other, and for a good cause – we received an overwhelming amount of support from nearly 40 sponsors and raised nearly $30,000 for the MTA Foundation.

We even welcomed an extra special guest who shared his passion for gaming and community – NBA superstar and longtime esports enthusiast Gordon Hayward. The whole MTA organization is excited to continue welcoming Alaskans (and even sports stars) to our gaming events, as we continue to use technology to make connections to the world around us.

MTA also sees gaming as an educational tool, which is why we’ve been proud to continue our relationship with the Mat-Su Borough School District as their Official Esports Partner.

As with everything we do, this partnership aims to minimize the impact of distance on Alaskans to each other and to the Lower 48. The cooperation, talent and growth that connects esports and academic achievement has served as a promising step forward for the students of the Mat-Su Valley

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MTA in Our Community

Between every landmark project and new product, we made sure our roots stayed firmly in the community that we call home.

We also made sure that we were continuing to invest in the future of our communities, from working alongside organizations such as Girls Who Code and Adventure for Ava to using the nonprofit MTA Foundation to ensure that young Alaskans interested in technology have the resources and guidance necessary to become the next generation of tech and business leaders.

In 2020, the MTA Foundation awarded $75,000 through its scholarship program, to help sustain and prepare Alaska’s future leaders, and our plans to promote technology awareness and boost economic development and entrepreneurship throughout the state are only getting bigger. We thank the scholarship committee members and donation committee members who make the Foundation’s goals a reality.

In addition to reaching out into the community to help, we saw our partnerships with local venues like the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center, MTA Events Center and the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center continue to grow, even during a pandemic.

We also set up a tangible new home this year, as we proudly announced that MTA would become the preferred technology provider of Wasilla’s Shoppes at Sun Mountain. Not only did we begin powering this premier shopping destination with high-speed internet, but we also opened a new, 6,000 sq. ft. MTA space there.

By empowering our members to live more connected lives as part of our mission, we believe this new space achieves just that, while letting our Alaskan communities experience MTA in a whole new, vibrant light.

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Co-Op Metrics

We’ve long known the impact that MTA has on our community and, more broadly, the state of Alaska, but this past year we wanted to dig into the numbers and see exactly what that impact looks like. Through a study conducted by McKinley Research (formerly the McDowell Group), we learned a lot about how many different ways MTA’s service and presence help the community we call home, with some key findings including:

All MTA employees are Alaska residents, with 90% living in the Mat-Su Borough.

MTA employed an average of 349 people: 287 employees with MTA and 62 with AlasConnect.

More than half of MTA’s spending ($46.4 million or 52%) went to 340 Alaska vendors.

Indirect and induced employment supported by MTA totaled approximately 220 jobs and $15 million in labor income in the Mat-Su Borough.

Statewide, there was a direct impact of 380 jobs and $26.4 million in labor income.

As of 2018, more than half of MTA customers had access to internet speeds of 40 megabits per second, exceeding current FCC benchmarks for advanced telecommunications capability.

In 2019, MTA upgraded internet speeds in 4,987 new locations and provided fiber optics-to-home capability for 6,227 lots.

A recent study by the Entertainment Software Association finds that the amount of households with gamers is growing year over year. In 2020 75% of Americans have at least one gamer in the household. Over the years, gaming has reached new audiences, with the average age range being 35-44 years of age and nearly half being female. During the recent global pandemic, gaming has brought a sense of community and socialization, with almost 80% of gamers claiming that gaming provides significant stress relief.

Alaska small businesses estimated adopting more online tools would result in a sales increase of 15.0% over a three-year period (2018-2021), an estimated $463.3 million in additional sales.

[CEO Remuneration Statement]

Pursuant to MTA Bylaws, Article VI, Section 5(g), CEO remuneration, including the value of benefits for the year ending December 31, 2020 has been certified by the Secretary of the MTA Board of Directors in the amount of $584,350.07.

Looking for our Annual Report Financials? This year, the financial report can be found by logging into myMTA.

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Network Expansion

Spring is a time for growth and renewal, which is why our whole organization is thrilled that construction season is upon us. In terms of scope and size, it will be tough to top the completion of our AlCan ONE fiber network last spring, but that doesn’t mean we’ve slowed down at all.

Last year, MTA invested millions of dollars into infrastructure, completing the AlCan ONE fiber network and continuing our Alaska Plan build-out to provide our serving areas with better connectivity. Some of the fiber transport projects focused on the development of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) access in areas such as Wasilla Fishhook from Wasilla to Lake View; Bogard Road in the Cottonwood area; and in the Lucille area.

While you may think that this process is simply based around construction, there is a whole lot more going on behind-the-scenes. Following the design phase, these projects go through MTA’s Right-of-Way department to ensure that all of the necessary permits are in place to proceed with the network, a process that can take anywhere from one week to six months. This team also sends out hundreds of property notification letters to inform the public of MTA’s upcoming work.

From there, our Surveying department proceeds to stake all of our projects for construction activities, which includes actual trench staking, right-of-way limits, property corners and slope staking. When Surveying has completed each project, the design is then given to the Construction teams for placing of our Outside-Plant Engineers (OSP) facilities. Subcontractors perform boring and land clearing, and then our Splicers will splice the fiber and/or copper cables and perform cutovers to our new facilities. Finally, our Line Assigners ensure that everything is provisioned and that the network is ready to provide service.

With the team we have in place—from the linemen and Outside-Plant Engineers in Fairbanks to our right-of-way and surveying departments—the sky is the limit in terms of new growth and ambitious projects that will result in exponentially more Alaskans being connected to each other and the rest of the world.

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Closing

We want you, our members, to know that this past year has made us even more prepared for whatever unexpected crises or changes come our way.

We’ve invested time and resources in making sure MTA can operate fully remote without missing a beat in terms of customer service and continued innovation. Through projects like our AlCan ONE network, we’ve laid the foundation for other landmark projects and exciting new growth, which we’re excited to share more details of in the months ahead.

While no one could’ve predicted the extent of this recent crisis, our tremendous team kept its eye on the ball, and that’s what we’re doing as we move through 2021 and into the future. We will keep creating, keep adapting, keep innovating, keep building, keep growing, keep bringing Alaskans together, and keep moving forward. Because that’s what MTA has always done.