Naomi Klouda

On first visit to state, UPS chief touts Alaska role in Asia trade route

UPS International President Jim Barber told an Anchorage group the right timing for his first trip to Alaska had come for a number of reasons, including the hub’s expanding importance in connecting to China and Asian-Pacific communities.

Barber, the head of the United Parcel Service International, spoke Dec. 8 before the Alaska World Affairs Council at the 49th State Brewing Co.

RCA outlines limits of authority over broadband in report

Whether there should be rules allowing the Regulatory Commission of Alaska more authority over telecoms’ broadband service was one of the basic questions of a report sent to Legislature on Dec. 1.

The RCA’s “Broadband Report to the Alaska Legislature,” a 29-page document, was sent to members of the House and Senate Finance committees and the Legislative Finance Division and posted to the agency website.

Salvation Army wins grant to escalate addiction fight

The Salvation Army’s red kettles collect quarters and dollars that may not look like they’d add up to much.

But in the face of Alaska’s drug epidemic, those for whom the bells toll include people in treatment.

Because the Salvation Army has a track record for casting a wide social safety net and delivering addiction treatment programs, it was a logical step to award an Alaska Department of Corrections contract for treatment programs at two of the state’s largest prisons to the Salvation Army.

With repeal pending, IRS will enforce mandate on 2017 taxes

Republicans in Congress are aiming to repeal the health insurance mandate tax penalty before the holidays, but the IRS still plans to enforce it when people file their 2017 returns next year.

Here’s the message from the IRS: “For the upcoming 2018 filing season, the IRS will not accept electronically filed tax returns where the taxpayer does not address the health coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act,” wrote IRS Spokesman Anthony Burke, in response to a question from the Journal.

Fairbanks workshop ponders faster internet solutions

Residents of 17 townships in Minnesota formed a cooperative — not so different from the old electric co-op model — and created RS Fiber to bring broadband to some 6,000 households.

Town voters agreed to fund RS Fiber’s $45 million network by bonding for seed money and borrowing from private investors, including local banks. Seven years later, they had fast, reliable broadband via, in some instances, towers built onto existing grain elevators and municipal water towers, Mark Erickson of Gaylord, Minn., told a gathering Dec. 2 in Fairbanks.

GCI, Alaska Communications weigh in on net neutrality repeal

While many are watching what the Federal Communications Commission will do in its upcoming vote on net neutrality, local carriers predict Alaskans won’t see much different in what’s already an “open internet” policy.

Christine O’Connor, the executive director of the Alaska Telephone Association, said the rules of net neutrality over the past two years caused confusion among Alaska’s nearly 20 large and small telecom member companies about what it was supposed to do.

Juneau physician secures three licenses for cannabis operation

Lower claim costs lead to large reimbursement

Alaska received a reimbursement check for $25 million from the lone company offering insurance on the individual market after lower-than-expected claim costs in 2017.

The payment to the Alaska Reinsurance Program, or ARP, came as part of a memorandum of understanding between the Alaska Division of Insurance and Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield. The company offered to make the reimbursement after finding that health insurance claims filed by Alaska customers in 2017 were trending at a 10-year low, according to Premera spokeswoman Melanie Coons.

Marijuana board rejects rule aimed at lease agreements

A measure that would have prohibited marijuana businesses from making agreements with their landlords to pay part of their revenue as rent was rejected by the Marijuana Control Board on Nov. 27 after a surge of public protests.

The board voted 3-2 against the proposed new regulation. Chairman Peter Mlynarik and board member Loren Jones voted to change the law, which would have required landlords to pass criminal background checks and be named on the business license if they accepted profits in exchange for rent.

Rogoff hires additional legal help to fight financial probe

A Washington, D.C., attorney hired by Alice Rogoff in her Alaska Dispatch News bankruptcy case is arguing against subjecting Rogoff’s finances to deeper scrutiny until more specifics are spelled out.

Attorney James Lister of Birch Horton Bittner &Cherot’s Washington D.C. office argues in a Nov. 28 filing that Rogoff, the former owner of the ADN, wasn’t given ample time to produce financial documents, as requested, by Dec. 6.

Report finds potential for insurance savings under consolidated coverage

The state or federal government covers 340,000 people in Alaska and retirees out-of-state, spending $3.5 billion per year between Medicaid and federal and state employee groups.

Uncle Sam pays $1.51 billion for 42 percent of those people as Medicaid, associated with the federal Medicaid match, the portion of Medicare payments estimated to cover eligible state retirees, and federal funds associated with the individual market.

Alaska pays $2.05 billion a year, covering its share of Medicaid and 58 percent of all government employees.

Claiming self as biggest creditor, Rogoff objects to outside firm

The latest development in former Alaska Dispatch News owner Alice Rogoff’s bankruptcy case has her objecting to hiring a Seattle law firm for the trustee on the grounds that it would cost money that wouldn’t then go toward the $16.6 million she says the estate owes her.

A flurry of filings from Nov. 7-15 begins with William Artus, attorney for Chapter 7 trustee Nacole Jipping, making a motion for a rule 2004 examination. That process would allow attorney-client privileges to pass to the bankruptcy trustee.

Marijuana board still grappling with landlord arrangements

When the Marijuana Control Board combed through licenses applications for new cannabis operations at its Anchorage meeting Nov. 14-15, residency and landlord issues continued to trip up applicants.

Only Alaskans can buy into a marijuana operation, per state law. The board has long expressed concerns about hidden ownership interests that could bring non-residents or a black market element into the legal industry.

Onsite use decision delayed; special meeting called after clock runs out

The Marijuana Control Board postponed action until April on whether to legalize onsite consumption facilities after running out of time in its two-day meeting in Anchorage Nov. 14-15.

In the meantime, because the board made it through only 22 of the 50 marijuana operations applications, they agreed to meet back in Anchorage Nov. 28-29 to finish the work. Otherwise, applicants would be left hanging until the Jan. 21 meeting of the board in Juneau.

AT&T debuts cell-service drone in Puerto Rico

A certain “flying cow” will be remembered long after it’s left Puerto Rico.

In this case, it’s AT&T’s drone invention, a cell on wings also known as a COW. At work in Puerto Rico, AT&T crews from Alaska and Washington reconnected residents of several devastated areas with cell service, using a new technology for the first time.

LTE-connected drones hold a lot of potential for FirstNet-subscribers, AT&T’s Kathryn Spencer said, referring to the telecom’s contract to develop, build and operate the nationwide broadband network for first responders.

Alaska Communications gains in broadband as FCC funds slip

Alaska Communications Systems Group Inc. reported modest 0.4 percent gains as revenues increased in third quarter to $56.7 million with growth attributed to advancements in fixed wireless technology and losses attributed to a shortage in Universal Services Funds for the Rural Health Care Program.

In a year-over-year comparison to 2016, Alaska Communications saw overall revenue rise from $56.5 million to $56.7 million. Of that, business and wholesale provided 61.5 percent of the total revenue, up to $31.3 million from $29.4 million, or a gain of 6.4 percent.

Alaska SBA office hosts Amazon for e-commerce workshop

Amazon is opening a “big door” to Alaska’s small business entrepreneurs, inviting them to sell their goods and services via the shopping giant’s network.

“It’s a worldwide door at Amazon,” an official with the organization told a packed crowd at a Nov. 8 workshop put on by the Small Business Administration Alaska District Office.

While there’s talk or hopes that the e-commerce giant might open an Alaska branch — and according to Amazon spokesman Erik Fairleigh, that’s not out of the question — the big topic of the day was how to use Amazon’s network.

Entrepreneurs bring slate of new ideas to 10th Startup Weekend

The 10th annual Startup Weekend Nov. 10-12 brought out seven teams and about 45 participants spending 58 hours on a weekend researching and vetting new business ideas with total strangers at the Boardroom in Downtown Anchorage

The Boardroom, a co-working space that’s become known as a hive of entrepreneurial activity in the state, hosted the slate of emerging business ideas that by Sunday night ranged from cultural awareness gifting for corporations to new tech apps to financial startups.

Marijuana taxes near total for alcohol; testing under scrutiny

So far this year, Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office investigations show more notices of violations were handed out to bars than to marijuana operations by a count of 57 to 44.

Tax revenue from marijuana operations this year through October is $1.5 million, while alcohol tax generated $2.2 million. Budgets for each segment for AMCO in 2017 came to $1.6 million for alcohol and $1.2 million for marijuana.

GCI reports $9M loss in 3Q; gets OK for Liberty merger

General Communications Inc. posted a net loss of $9 million in third quarter as subscriber declines continue in cable TV, data and wireless customers.

With business revenue nearly flat, the $5 million decline in consumer revenue year-over-year was roughly equal to the overall decline from $236.6 million to $231.2 million in total revenue in the third quarter.

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