As 2011 comes to a close, it's a great time to look back at what happened to the stocks that interest you. By making sure you know the important things that a company accomplished -- as well as the setbacks it experienced -- you can make a better decision about whether it's a smart investment for your portfolio.

Today, let's take a look at Alaska Communications (Nasdaq: ALSK). As its name suggests, the telecom serves the state of Alaska by providing voice, data, and broadband Internet services. But despite luring investors with a big dividend yield that's now above 20%, the stock has done nothing but drop this year. Below, I'll take a closer look at the events that moved shares of Alaska Communications this year.

Stats on Alaska Communications

Year-to-Date Stock Return (58.5%)
Market Cap $193 million
1-Year Revenue Growth 2%
Net Loss, Trailing 12 Months ($3 million)
Dividend Yield 20.1%
CAPS Rating ***

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Why did Alaska Communications plunge this year?
To all appearances, Alaska Communications appears to be a solid company paying reliable dividends. Although the company posted a net loss over the past 12 months, its free cash flow is much healthier at more than $27 million.

But that free cash flow isn't enough to cover the dividend that Alaska Communications is paying out. Just as Frontier Communications (NYSE: FTR) had to cut its dividend by 25% in response to free cash flow concerns, the Alaskan telecom might have to follow suit. With the board of directors reportedly looking at cutting the dividend, Alaska Communications shareholders have responded by selling off the stock.

Moreover, the company has been somewhat behind the curve, strategically speaking. As late as 2008, Alaska Communications was making big expenditures to boost fixed-line service. That stands in stark contrast to both big telecoms AT&T (NYSE: T) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) as well as fellow rural telecom companies Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN) and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL), which tend to use landlines as a gateway to get customers to order higher-margin broadband services.

The worst news, however, could be potential competition from Verizon (NYSE: VZ), which intends to enter the Alaskan market. That could leave Alaska Communications scrounging for scraps as Verizon focuses on the most profitable segments of the business -- and it certainly explains why shareholders are so pessimistic.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.