Air traffic controller turns to guiding Internet

In his day job, Ryan Durbin guides airplanes over Anchorage. Now, his frustration with Alaska Internet access has him turning to guiding Web traffic as well.

Last week, Durbin unveiled a new application that displays a live “fuel gauge” for GCI customers who subscribe to cap-limited Internet access.

“It’s open-source and it’s free,” he said. “I’m just trying to make Alaska slightly better.”

GCI is the most popular home Internet provider in Alaska, but most of its subscriptions are capped – use too much bandwidth, and you’ll pay for it. Those caps are a source of frustration for many Alaskans, and complaints about bandwidth caps are one of the most frequent gripes about Internet access in Alaska.

GCI’s principal competitor, ACS, offers uncapped Internet, but ACS doesn’t offer Internet service everywhere. Durbin, who lives in Eagle River, found himself frustrated by GCI’s caps but unable to switch to ACS.

He streams Netflix on two televisions, “and even though I have the second-biggest account, it’s not much data,” he said.

Rather than just stay frustrated, he taught himself C#, a programming language created by Microsoft, and created a way to keep track of his usage.

The application, available for Windows computers, is simple: Users log in once, and the application connects to GCI’s existing “fuel gauge” Web portal at a set interval. The result is displayed in the task bar at the bottom of the computer’s home screen.

“Every time you’re using your computer, it’s there,” he said.

GCI spokesman David Morris said the company has no affiliation with Durbin, and all customers should be cautious about providing their login information to a third-party program.

“We’re always a little cautious about any time you download something and enter your credentials,” he said, adding that the company is examining the program.

The Empire examined the source code Durbin provided, and the program appears to do exactly what Durbin says on his website: “This app does not collect any of your personal information, there is no ‘phone home’ and your user name and password are only stored on your PC for the purpose of logging into your GCI account to retrieve your data.”

Durbin was a Web designer before he began guiding aircraft, and the program has started getting attention. It’s a solution obvious in hindsight to a problem a lot of Alaskans have, he said, but “it’s like Dropbox,” he said, “you never knew you needed it until you had it. … Now, it’s like, of course.”

To download the program, visit

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