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Merit Network Joins Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition

ANN ARBOR – Merit Network, Inc. is now a member of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition. In June 2009, Merit joined a wealth of organizations representing school districts, libraries, higher education institutions, healthcare providers, public media groups and network providers across the United States that make up the Coalition. The SHLB was formed to ensure that each and every school, library and health provider has access to a robust, affordable, high-capacity bandwidth connection.

“The Coalition is pleased to welcome Merit Network,” said John Windhausen, Jr., coordinator of the SHLB Coalition. “Its expertise and experience operating Michigan’s research and education network will lend critical support to our mission to ensure every community anchor institution in America has access to high-capacity broadband.”

As America’s longest-running research and education network, Merit understands the unique networking needs of community anchor institutions. Its membership is comprised of a consortium of K-12 schools, community colleges, universities, libraries, healthcare facilities and governmental organizations across Michigan—and boasts over 415 connections. Each of these member organizations has experienced the immense benefits of connecting to a fiber-optic network designed specifically to support the research and education community. Whether enabling distance learning, specialized courses, telemedicine, cost-sharing collaboration or ground-breaking research projects that connect clinicians across the globe, high-capacity bandwidth enhances the quality of life for citizens touched by leading-edge network resources. Both Merit and the SHLB Coalition believe in the critical importance of extending these benefits to communities across Michigan and across America.

The Coalition understands that in addition to enabling community anchor institutions to best serve underserved and unserved populations, deploying broadband connectivity to every anchor institution in America opens up valuable interconnection points to further broadband penetration into residential and business venues. These interconnection points will spur sustained economic development in an efficient manner. With regard to the investment that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 will make in broadband infrastructure, this is the most effective way to address both a national broadband plan as well as economic revitalization.

“The Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition clearly sees the best solution for America’s broadband problem,” said Merit President and CEO, Don Welch. “We believe that without abundant and robust bandwidth at community anchor institutions, there cannot be economic development in remote areas. As the Coalition continues to advocate for essential 21st century connectivity at schools, colleges, universities, libraries and health facilities across America, Merit Network is proud to align itself with a group that shares our vision.”

Prior to the release of the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) and Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), the SHLB Coalition engaged federal officials and members of congress to convey the critical importance of high-capacity broadband infrastructure for K12 schools, universities, colleges, libraries, hospitals, clinics and other healthcare providers. Though the first NOFA failed to give sufficient priority to the needs of these organizations, the Coalition is currently pursuing various avenues to make certain due consideration will be given in the subsequent rounds of ARRA Broadband funding and the forthcoming FCC National Broadband Plan.

The SHLB Coalition’s members include: Access Humbolt, American Association of Community Colleges, American Association of Law Libraries, American Hospital Association, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Benton Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Center for Media Justice, Center for Rural Strategies, Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, Community Telestructure Initiative, Consortium for School Networking, Consumer’s Union, Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Networks of America, EDUCAUSE, Free Press, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Google Inc., International Society for Technology in Education, Indiana’s Higher Education Network (I-Light), Instructional Telecommunications Council, Internet2, Kenyon Communications, Lonestar Education and Research Network, Main Street Project, Media Access Project, Media and Democracy Coalition, Media Mobilizing Project, Merit Network, Inc., Microsoft, National Alliance for Media, Arts and Culture, National Hispanic Media Coalition, National Lambda Rail (NLR), National Medical Wireless Broadband Alliance, LLC., National Rural Health Association, New America Foundation, New York State Education and Research Network (NYSERNet), North Carolina Research and Education Network, Ocean State Higher Education & Administrative Network (OSHEAN), Public Knowledge, The Quilt, Sunesys, Texas Media Empowerment Project, 21st Century Libraries, Urban Libraries Council, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG). Look for more from the Coalition in the future and its mission to improve the broadband capabilities of schools, libraries and health providers so that they can enhance the quality and availability of the essential services they provide to the public.

About Merit

Merit Network, Inc., a nonprofit corporation owned and governed by Michigan’s public universities, 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 on the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking solutions to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.
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About the Schools, Health and Libraries Coalition

The Schools, Health and Libraries Coalition launched on June 11th, 2009. The SHLB was formed to highlight the urgent need these organizations have for high-capacity and affordable broadband connections for the 21st Century. The Coalition seeks to improve the broadband capabilities of schools, libraries and health care providers so that they can enhance the quality and availability of the essential services they provide to the public and serve underserved and unserved populations more effectively. The Coalition believes that connecting these anchor institutions with high-capacity broadband will generally provide the greatest benefits to those people who need it most — rural, low-income, disabled, elderly, socially and economically disadvantaged, and other unserved and underserved segments of the population. Since its inception, the Coalition has increased its membership from 34 to 48 organizations.