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Merit Network and Bloomingdale Communications Collaborate on BTOP-funded Network in Southwest Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Merit Network, Inc. announced today it is pleased to enter into an agreement with Bloomingdale Communications, Inc. to deploy fiber-optic network infrastructure that will be jointly owned by each organization to build-out their respective network projects. Both projects are in part federally-funded. In working together, Merit Network and Bloomingdale Communications are maximizing federal investment in Michigan and saving tax-payer dollars.

“This agreement is an excellent example of two companies working together for the greater good of the public,” said Bob Stovall, vice president of network engineering and operations for Merit Network.

“It demonstrates the real benefits of collaboration, which Merit has championed as an organization for quite some time,” he said. “In addition to creating cost-savings, the joint segment upon which Merit and Bloomingdale will collaborate is sure to accelerate the completion of both projects and improve their long-term viability as maintenance and other operational costs can be shared between parties.”

“Bloomingdale Communications, as a private company, is very excited to work with a non-profit of Merit Network’s reputation. I believe that this agreement is going to provide significant benefit to both organizations and our respective projects,” stated Mark Bahnson, CEO/general manager, Bloomingdale Communications.

Merit Network and Bloomindale Communications are individually leading respective efforts to construct fiber-optic infrastructure in Michigan as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). BTOP, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), awarded grants to help pay for fiber-optic network deployment in rural and underserved areas in two funding rounds.

Merit’s REACH-3MC project will serve as a nearly 2,300-mile extension of Merit’s leading-edge network in rural areas of Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas with key interconnection points in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Van Buren County Fiber Ring project, led by Bloomingdale Communications, will deploy a high-speed fiber network that will connect communities to one another and countywide. Both projects focus on improved service to community anchor institutions and economic development for rural Michigan.

The two projects will jointly own a 44-mile stretch of middle mile infrastructure that runs from Berrien Springs to South Haven, encompassing the communities of Benton Harbor, Coloma and Watervliet along the way.

Merit Network will lead the construction and implementation of the segment. The infrastructure and related facilities will be jointly owned by both Merit Network and Bloomingdale Communications. The fiber sheath will essentially house each organization’s respective networks.

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.

About Bloomingdale Communications

For over a century Bloomingdale Communications has been providing voice, data and video services in Southwest Michigan. Since the early 1900s, Bloomingdale has offered its customers the latest technologies with local, hands-on support and service.

This local commitment has brought many firsts to the area – everything from basic phone and long distance services to Cable TV to dial-up internet. In the late 90s, Bloomingdale was the first company to offer DSL service in Southwest Michigan. In 2005, Bloomingdale began a Fiber-to-the-Home project in Paw Paw, MI to connect residential and business customers on fiber optic cable for telephone, broadband internet and cable TV services. An ARRA Stimulus Grant from RUS is helping Bloomingdale expand this fiber footprint to customers in Paw Paw to the rural areas of Antwerp, Almena, Paw Paw and Waverly townships.

Today the sky is limit with high speed connection for Bloomingdale’s Van Buren County customers. Whether it is a connection to the world through the Internet or a connection from one location to another, the constant is Bloomingdale’s dedication to its communities and to its customers.

About the Van Buren County Fiber Ring

Bloomingdale Communications’ Van Buren County Fiber Ring project will deploy a high-speed fiber network that will connect community anchor institutions including Van Buren Intermediate School District, Berrien County Regional Education Services, the City of South Haven and other government agencies across the county. Access to this infrastructure will allow for greater opportunities in healthcare, education, public safety and boost economic development.

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