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Macomb Community College Leveraging Partnerships Through a Fiber-Optic Network Connection

CLINTON TOWNSHIP – Nearly 20 years ago, Macomb Community College pioneered a new partnership concept, establishing the Macomb University Center to bring bachelor’s degree-completion and master’s degrees home to Macomb County residents through relationships with senior educational institutions. With the recent completion of a new fiber-optic network, Macomb Community College intends to use partnerships of a different kind to lower costs and improve network connectivity in Macomb County.

In early 2008, the college adopted a long-term, fiber-optic network strategy, and Mike Zimmerman, CIO and executive director of communications and information technology, began working with Merit Network to connect Macomb College by fiber-optic cable.

On June 23, 2009, Merit Network completed work on a fiber-optic connection to Macomb Community College, which extends from Oakland University in Rochester to Macomb’s Center Campus in Clinton Township and then to St. Clair County. The new link established a one gigabit-per-second connection for the college and created a network access point that enables their University Center partners to connect directly to Merit’s backbone network. Michigan State University and Oakland University, both of which are Merit Network Members, will soon begin using the new network access point to connect directly to their university networks via Merit Network’s fiber-optic backone.

“The new network connection enables the Macomb University Center partners to deploy high-end teaching applications that require low-latency and high-capacity network connectivity,” said Leslie Williamson, member relations manager for Merit Network’s higher education members. “This also provides an opportunity for other organizations in the community to collaborate and benefit from this fiber-optic connection.”

Programs provided by Oakland University, Wayne State University and Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine can now use telepresence for classroom instruction. Through high-definition, interactive videoconferencing across the fiber network, professors in East Lansing and Detroit can teach students in Clinton Township, providing them with advanced educational opportunities onsite at Macomb Community College.

To further utilize the network and lower costs, Macomb College and its university partners have discussed collaboration opportunities beyond the classroom. Possibilities include shared services, such as virtualization and disaster recovery.

“Our connection to Merit’s fiber backbone network provides many connectivity and collaboration opportunities with, and for, our institutional partners—the universities and colleges who are part of the Macomb University Center,” Zimmerman said. “We have been exploring how to leverage our new network connection to share resources and reduce our operational expenses, including specific discussions with Oakland University about strategies that would lower our costs for both institutions while bolstering business continuity.”

In addition to collaborating with university partners, Macomb Community College is interested in partnering with organizations in Macomb County on network connectivity.

“Macomb County is a vast reservoir of large hospitals, schools, businesses and community organizations, and we’re all independently connected to the Internet in different ways. Some of these organizations may find benefit in participating in a collaborative that seeks to reduce these costs and improve connection continuity through economies of scale.” Zimmerman said.

In recent years, Merit Network has assisted community fiber projects in Hillsdale and Alpena, improving network connectivity, reducing costs, and spurring economic development in the connected communities. Whether through a formal fiber consortium entity or a network partnership, Zimmerman believes a community approach to Internet connectivity would provide some significant benefits to Macomb County organizations.

“By inviting other organizations to connect to the Internet through the Merit connection point at Macomb Community College and leveraging relationships Merit has with existing fiber plant providers, we may all benefit by lower costs and improved connectivity continuity through path redundancy,” Zimmerman said.

About Macomb Community College

Macomb Community College is one of the nation’s leading community colleges, providing learning experiences to more than 59,000 students annually. Macomb ranks nationally in the top two percent in the number of associate degrees awarded and as the largest grantor of associate degrees in Michigan. The college’s comprehensive educational programming includes pre-college experiences, university transfer and career preparation programs, bachelor’s degree completion and graduate degree programs, workforce training, professional and continuing education and enrichment opportunities. For more information: www.macomb.edu

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. For more information: www.merit.edu

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