Merit Network Provides Another First for Michigan's Research and Education Community
Merit's Engineers Connect the Michigan Peninsulas with Gigabit Fiber Capability
By Mary McLaughlin
October 19, 2007ANN ARBOR, MI - With a new fiber-optic path that spans Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the Mackinac Bridge, and the addition of new connections in St. Ignace, Mackinaw City, Petoskey and Traverse City, Merit Network, Inc. is now offering gigabit service to its Members in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.
A year ago, Merit committed to its Members to have within 12 months a networking solution for the northern part of its network that would significantly increase the bandwidth and redundancy. Merit's goal was to 'future proof' the network by acquiring fiber across the U.P and the Mackinac Bridge. "Merit has met this commitment," said Mary Eileen McLaughlin, Merit's Chief Technical Officer.
In March 2007, Merit Network gained approval from the Mackinac Bridge Authority to use its fiber-optic cable across the Bridge. "The Bridge Authority recognized the importance of this capability for Michigan's education community," said Bob Sweeney, the Executive Director of the Bridge Authority. "We know that education and research are fundamental to the future economic development for our state," he added. McLaughlin noted that Merit "very much values both the vision of the Bridge Authority in installing fiber several years ago, and their demonstrated commitment to Michigan's Research and Education community by providing the contract to Merit to use it." She added that, "The connection of the Peninsulas for R&E is another first for Merit as it enters its 42nd year of serving this community."
In parallel with the Bridge work, Merit obtained the use of 383 miles of fiber to connect Sault Ste. Marie, Marquette, Houghton and Iron Mountain in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The fiber across the U.P. was acquired from Peninsula Fiber Network (PFN). "PFN has been a great partner," said Robert Duncan, Merit's Backbone Engineering Manager. "They are innovative and technically astute, and have accomplished this massive build in an amazingly short period of time," he added.
In late September, Merit connected the fiber on the Bridge to the U.P. fiber, and then in the Lower Peninsula completed gigabit circuit connections from the Bridge to Petoskey, Traverse City and down to Grand Rapids and Merit's Mid-Michigan fiber. The new network paths bring faster speeds and greater capacity to those areas, as well as create a redundant path for Merit Network's backbone network. Previously, the two Peninsulas were connected together only in Chicago, and not through Michigan at all. "Now we're connected within Michigan itself, in addition to our U.P. to Chicago connection through Wisconsin," said Duncan.
"Michigan Technological University is very grateful for the support of the Merit higher education community and the dedication and hard work of the Merit organization in bringing gigabit connectivity to Michigan Tech and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, "said Brenda Helminen, Director of Michigan Tech's Telecommunications Engineering Department, and the Secretary of Merit's Board of Directors. "This expanded network capability is critical to meeting our education and research goals," she added. "Faculty and students are involved in projects with teams from across the country and around the world. High-speed networking, video conferencing and collaboration, and access to the world via the Internet are critical to the success of these energetic and exciting people," she said.
While this is a great achievement and completes a phase of network improvement, McLaughlin noted that Merit is immersed in the next phase of network expansion to continue to improve connectivity to all its Members and be ready for the next phase of network demand in the multi-gigabit range of capacity.