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Bayliss Public Library Boasts New Fiber-Optic Connection from Merit

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Merit Network, Inc. announced today that it has connected Bayliss Public Library with a new fiber-optic lateral as part of the REACH-3MC project.
REACH-3MC and ARRA logo
The connection was successfully “lit” with service in late January. The newly constructed lateral has a whopping capacity of a 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).

For Bayliss Public Library Director, Ken Miller, that is quite a jump:

“We have seen an immediate difference in the new connection. It was a smooth transition. No glitches. This was a great experience because we demonstrated a need, and Merit responded to that need.”

“It’s just wonderful to see libraries like Bayliss get fiber connections because they are such a hub for their communities. For many residents, the library is the only place where they can access the Internet,” said Jim Lundberg, Upper Peninsula member relations manager for Merit.

“Merit is very proud to support our Member, Bayliss Public Library. We have worked with Ken and the staff at Bayliss for many years and we are excited to take the next step with them in offering improved service to their community,” said Elwood Downing, Vice President of outreach and member engagement for Merit.

Prior to the new Merit connection, the library had to make do with two T1 lines. Both lines had a combined capacity of approximately 3 megabits per second (Mbps). And due to the lack of bandwidth capacity, Bayliss regularly experienced slow-downs in their service.

Miller remembers an important meeting he had with Jim Lundberg and Elwood Downing of Merit. In that meeting, they examined Bayliss Public Library’s usage graph, a tool Merit provides its Members that charts their connections and how much bandwidth they are using.

“For the past couple of years, the graph would go up to about 3 Mbps and then it was as if someone had cut it down with a lawn mower,” Miller explained.

“When we showed the graph to Elwood and Jim, they gasped. Then they said, ‘We’ve got to fix this.’ ”

Merit included Bayliss Public Library in their Round II REACH-3MC project. REACH-3MC is funded in part by two grants from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, also known as the Stimulus Package.

REACH-3MC builds nearly 2,287 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure through rural and underserved areas of Michigan. Additionally it provides direct, fiber-optic connections to 143 community anchor institutions (CAIs), which are schools, colleges, health care facilities, state and local government, non-profit service organizations and libraries like Bayliss.

“Our matching funds for the lateral were in the range of $1,200. Other companies quoted us upwards of $30,000 for a similar connection. There’s no way we could have been able to afford this without Merit’s help,” Miller said.

With the new connection in place, Miller and his staff at Bayliss are excited to provide better service to their patrons. One thing that they have wanted to do for a long time but have lacked the bandwidth to do so is make Bayliss Public Library programs available via video conference. That programming includes speakers, authors, music and a community health series with War Memorial Hospital.

“We are cautious about technology because it often promises more than it can give, but this connection is not in that category. It is a boon for the library and can stretch our programming budget farther.”

In addition to Bayliss, there are six branches in the Bayliss Public Library system spanning large areas of Chippewa and Mackinaw Counties.

“Our farthest branch is 82 miles away, while the closest is 23 miles. So this kind of connectivity is important to us,” Miller added.

About Merit Network

Merit Network Inc., is a nonprofit corporation owned and governed by Michigan’s public universities. Merit owns and operates America’s longest-running regional research and education network. In 1966, Michigan’s public universities created Merit as a shared resource to help meet their common need for networking assistance. Since its formation, Merit Network has remained at the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking and IT solutions to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.

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The REACH Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative (REACH-3MC) will build 2,287 miles of open-access, advanced fiber-optic network through rural and underserved communities in Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The network will also provide backhaul to key connection points in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Led by Merit Network, Michigan’s research and education network, REACH-3MC includes sub-recipients from the private sector to make broadband readily available to households and businesses that lack adequate service options in the 52 counties that make up the project service area. REACH-3MC is funded by a two grants (Round I and Round II) from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), commonly referenced as the Stimulus Package.