Merit Network wins REACH-3MC broadband stimulus proposal

JANUARY 28, 2010 -- Merit Network, Inc., in Ann Arbor, Mich., received federal stimulus funding to build a 955-mile extension of the research and education provider's fiber-optic backbone. The fiber will extend critical broadband service to rural and underserved communities across 32 Michigan counties.

JANUARY 28, 2010 -- Merit Network, Inc., in Ann Arbor, Mich., received federal stimulus funding to build a 955-mile extension of the research and education provider's fiber-optic backbone. The fiber will extend critical broadband service to rural and underserved communities across 32 Michigan counties.

The Merit award among the first Recovery Act Broadband Infrastructure projects to receive funding. (For more information on the other funding targets, see “Fiber dominates latest US rural broadband stimulus funds release” and "First broadband stimulus awards announced.")

"Merit has sought ways of reaching institutions in these rural communities with fiber for the majority of the past decade," says Don Welch, Merit president and chief executive officer. "Anchor institutions in these areas providing essential services to the public will have access to leading-edge infrastructure. The fiber will deliver connectivity that will enhance quality of life and bolster economic development."

In August 2009, Merit Network submitted the REACH-3MC (Rural, Education, Anchor, Community and Healthcare – Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative) proposal to the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). BTOP is funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), better known as the stimulus package.

The REACH-3MC will connect anchor institutions with national points of presence in Chicago, Southfield and Cleveland, as well as two geographically diverse 10G paths to Internet2. With Merit's existing fiber path across the MackinacBridge, for the first time in Michigan's history, the research and education communities in the Upper and LowerPeninsulas will be interconnected.

Merit Network will share fiber strands with Michigan commercial providers - ACD.net; The Iserv Company, LLC; LYNX Network Group, LLC; and TC3Net - to accomplish a public-private partnership that will impact every sector of society. The new infrastructure will have a positive impact on anchor institutions, homes and businesses in the service area.

REACH-3MC will immediately connect 44 anchor institutions and was designed to enable access to 378 more over time. In addition, the fiber will avail service to 886,147 households and 45,875 businesses.

Merit's portion of the fiber will allow state and local governments, schools, libraries, healthcare facilities, and other anchor institutions to connect to Merit's private, high-performance network, enabling them to lower costs, consolidate services and provide more to Michigan's citizens.

"REACH-3MC leverages the current networks operated by Merit and partners to deliver maximum benefit for cost," said Elwood Downing, vice president of member relations, communications and professional learning for Merit. "The REACH-3MC will extend our fiber-optic network to rural areas across Northwestern, Central and Southern Michigan, and current members will benefit from the new connections in a synergistic fashion."

"Merit’s current Members enjoy tremendous benefits by collaborating and sharing resources and costs over our existing infrastructure," Downing adds. "Not only will institutions that are newly able to connect to REACH-3MC see improved services at lower rates. But also current Merit Members will benefit from the synergistic effect of the new anchor institutions on the extended network."

REACH-3MC will receive a grant to cover 80 percent of the total cost of the project. The total cost is roughly $41.6 million, with Merit and partners covering 20 percent. REACH-3MC is coordinated with three other ARRA applications that target underserved areas in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Northeast Lower Peninsula and Thumb regions. Engineering and permitting will begin immediately, with groundbreaking for construction slated for May 2010.

Vist Merit Network

More in FTTX