Fiber Consortium Enhances Region

By Sue Latuszek, The Alpena News
July 10, 2006

ALPENA - In an effort to provide enhanced services to the community, several non-profit and governmental entities are joining together to form the Alpena Regional Fiber Consortium.

The consortium allows member's to use each other's fiber cables.

Although Merit — a company that connects non-profit organizations for information sharing and serves as an Internet 2 provider — had customers in the area there was no local connection point to Merit.

"The reason this consortium has been formed, is Merit has no connection up here," City MIS Director Chad Repke said.

A central connection to Merit was put in place at the Alpena County Courthouse.

"Before (customers) were paying another provider for a connection to get downstate to connect to Merit," Repke said.

The biggest benefit to the consortiun is the future opportunities it creates, Repke said.

"Things that probably had never been thought of before are now possible," he said. "That's the reason the city has become involved, because it opens up a whole range of opportunities to the community at large."

Map of Alpena location

County MIS Director Brad McRoberts said the consortium makes it possible to do future cooperative things, such as phone systems, printers and video conferencing, with the entities involved.

"There's just all kinds of things," he said.

Everything will be internal, not on the Internet, McRoberts said.

The consortium saves members money, initially because Merit customers don't have to pay an outside provider, but also because each entity doesn't have to build its own infrastructure.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Manager Jeff Gray said the consortium allows the sanctuary to connect to its partners.

"It really allows us to take our programming beyond our building," Gray said.

He said a live show from the sanctuary can be shown at the college or local schools, allowing the sanctuary to share with the community.

It also can save the schools money, because it eliminates the need to bus students to the sanctuary for the experience.

Gray said the sanctuary saves money by not having to get a separate Internet II connection.

The idea has come along way in less than a year and a half, Repke said.

In April 2005 Alpena Community College needed a better Internet connection and the sanctuary needed Internet II.

"The need existed and the college knew about it and they talked to the right people at the right time (and everything fell into place from there)," Repke said.

Although the initial purpose of the consortium is data sharing between the non-profit and governmental agencies, wireless Internet service within the city may even be an eventual possibility.

"There's been some discussion of that," Repke said. "It is a realistic possibility."

Reprinted from the Alpena News,

For press/media contact:

Elwood Downing
Merit Network, Inc.
Phone: (734)527-5702

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