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Merit Network Announces Completed Milestones for the REACH-3MC Round I Project

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Merit Network, Inc. announced today completed milestones on their REACH-3MC Round I fiber-optic project. Ninety-eight percent of all strand, conduit and fiber have been installed of the 1,017 miles of the Round I middle-mile project.
REACH-3MC and ARRA logos
In January, 2010 Merit received an ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) award as part of the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) to construct a 1,017-mile extension of middle-mile fiber-optic infrastructure.

Through the REACH-3MC project, Merit will enable K-12 schools, colleges, libraries, health care facilities, state and local government, and other community anchor institutions (CAIs) to connect to Merit’s high-performance network, enabling them to lower costs, consolidate services and provide more to Michigan’s citizens. Merit engaged three sub-recipients from the private sector to provide new and improved service to homes and businesses along the REACH-3MC route. Merit’s existing fiber infrastructure combined with the new REACH-3MC network infrastructure creates a robust footprint in the state, providing Michigan with a strategic asset to leverage in the future.

The REACH-3MC Round I project was divided into four manageable corridors: Southern, Western, Central, and Eastern. Merit has completed all construction in the Southern Corridor running from Monroe to Berrien Springs, the Western Corridor from Berrien Springs to Honor, including a spur from Scottville to Luther. The Central Corridor has full network continuity running from Mt. Pleasant to Gaylord and then east to Hillman. The Eastern Corridor is completed from Midland to Bay City and north to Omer.

Construction continues in Grand Traverse County, Antrim County, Charlevoix County, Kalkaska County, Iosco County and Arenac County. Merit is currently completing the final stages of its Round 1 REACH-3MC infrastructure in these counties. As of December 31, 2012 construction, splicing and testing is 90% completed in these counties.

Karen Smith, Merit’s CFO and Co-Project Manager for the REACH-3MC project stated, “Our plan is to have all the fiber pulling, splicing and testing finished no later than January 31, 2013.”

“All completed segments have been, or are in the process of being lit and Merit has begun working with the Community Anchor Institutions along the route to provision service to their organization. The optical equipment activated will give Merit the ability to light multiple 10 gigabit (Gbps) waves for communities along these corridors. Merit Member anchor institutions along these routes will have a 1 gigabit (Gbps) network connection to Merit’s network,” stated Bob Stovall, Vice President of Network Operations and Engineering.

Elwood Downing, Vice President of Member Relations, Communications, Product Development and Services for Merit announced that Merit will be connecting 57 CAIs to the REACH-3MC Round I fiber-optic network. ” The original grant request called for Merit to connect 43 community anchor institutions to the Round I mainline network. We are extremely proud that 14 additional CAIs will benefit immediately with increased service through this BTOP project.”

“The CAIs being connected by the REACH-3MC fiber network are already seeing the benefits this project has brought to their communities and the state. As a Membership organization, we are very happy with the comments from our Members on the effects that this project is, and will have for their organization and communities.”

Carol Souchock, Adrian Public Library Director stated “This project allows the library to expand upon our services to small business and entrepreneurs, provide library customers and students with long distance education opportunities and programming, improved access to government resources, and address the ever increasing technology needs of our community.

REACH-3MC provided an impetus for further development of our downtown, resulting in investment by competitive service providers, expanded networking opportunities with local educational institutions Adrian College, Jackson Community College, Siena Heights University and our economic development partner South Central Michigan Works as well as directly connecting us to educational and governmental resources throughout the State of Michigan.”

Mary Wolfram, Office of Economic Development, City of Hillsdale stated “We are so excited to be a part of the Merit REACH fiber network. It will enable us to have high speed Internet connections which are vital to economic development here in Hillsdale. We will be having our fiber “Light Up” dedication on January 17 and we want the world to know that Hillsdale is “Open for High Tech Business.”

Larry Garter, NMEC Network Administrator for COOR ISD added that “the Northern Michigan Electronics Consortium is very pleased that Merit’s REACH-3MC has successfully completed connections to our sites at COOR ISD and Roscommon Area Public Schools. When our other sites on the Merit REACH-3MC Round II project are completed on March 1st, we are looking forward to the additional bandwidth essential to facilitate the education programs within and between school districts. We are extremely pleased to be returning to the Merit fold, and look forward to a long and beneficial relationship. Thanks so much for all your help in getting this network established. ”

Merit’s President and CEO, Donald Welch added “Our Round I project has been a tremendous effort, including not only Merit, but our community, the contractors and the sub-recipients. Building over 1,000 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure, connecting 57 community anchor institutions while following federal rules and regulations, and not changing the scope or budget in 3-years is an accomplishment of which we are very proud. As one of the first BTOP awardees, Merit has helped the NTIA trail blaze their processes and procedures.

When we started this endeavor I stated that Merit Network is guided by a vision of equal access to information for all of Michigan’s citizens – regardless of physical location or geography. Though we have fostered this idea for quite some time, Merit has lacked the financial means necessary to bring our vision to reality. This BTOP grant has allowed us to begin to see this vision realized. Merit will continue working hard to finish the few remaining items for this project along with the expected completion of our Round II project at the end of July 2013.”

REACH-3MC progress map for Lower Peninsula as of Dec. 31, 2012

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.