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Merit Network Selected as Panelist for SHLB Coalition BTOP Summit in Washington, D.C.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Merit Network, Inc. announced today that it and two of its Members, Alpena Community College and the City of Hillsdale, will participate in a panel discussion at the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition’s BTOP Summit, to take place on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The SHLB Coalition BTOP Summit will highlight the progress of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). In 2010, BTOP awarded grants to fund broadband-related projects that will benefit communities across America. BTOP grants were awarded in three categories: Public Computing Centers, Sustainable Broadband Adoption and Broadband Infrastructure.

Merit Network President and CEO Don Welch and Mark Grunder, director of information technologies for Alpena Community College, will present on the panel, “Successful Broadband Infrastructure Projects and Anchor Institution Beneficiaries.”
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Christine Bowman, economic development director for the City of Hillsdale, and Eric Macy, president of Nonik Technologies, representing the City of Hillsdale, will join Welch and Grunder at the Summit. Hillsdale and Alpena are two key areas of Merit’s REACH-3MC (Rural Education Anchor Community Healthcare – Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative) project that will benefit from the BTOP award.

“Merit is pleased to have Alpena Community College and the City of Hillsdale join us in showcasing the impact, success and progress we have made implementing the grant thus far,” Welch said. “We hope that others will share in our excitement for the benefits our project will have for our Member Community and community anchor institutions throughout Michigan.”

“Merit is guided by a vision of equal access to information for all Michigan citizens—regardless of geographic location,” said Welch. “Through BTOP, and with the support of Michigan public universities, Merit’s vision is within reach—to the benefit of all sectors of society, and the entire state.”

“Merit, Alpena Community College and many other community anchor institutions in Northeast Michigan together have been working hard to achieve better connectivity for the region for over half a decade,” Grunder said.

“By forming the Alpena Regional Fiber Consortium (ARFC), we have managed great success. But absent Merit’s BTOP project, we would continue to fight an uphill battle for years to come,” said Grunder. “Merit’s project will provide essential 21st century resources to Alpena Community College and other community anchors in our region.”

“The City of Hillsdale has been working diligently to implement our economic development strategy, a key piece of which is business attraction focused on data center and hi-tech call center development. This effort, coupled with our technology growth and attraction plan, gives us the chance to diversify and build our local economy. This Summit allows us to tell our story on a national stage,” Bowman said.

“We want to make sure our leaders in Congress know how important the REACH-3MC broadband project is, not only to our core economic development efforts, but also for the impact it will have on key factors related to economic development including access to educational opportunities and entrepreneurial and business development,” Macy said.

Merit Network is a recipient of two grants from BTOP to fund their REACH-3MC project, a roughly 2,300-mile fiber-optic network extension that will improve service in rural and underserved areas of Michigan. Merit designed the project to maximize benefit for Michigan, creating “middle mile” infrastructure that can be leveraged by third parties for decades to come.

Through REACH-3MC, Merit will connect over 100 community anchor institutions directly to its high-performance fiber-optic backbone, and avail the same 21st century benefits for over 900 more community anchors in the service area. Community anchor institutions are K-12 schools, community colleges and other institutions of higher learning, heath care providers, libraries, state and local government, social service organizations and public safety entities.

REACH-3MC will address the lack of backhaul infrastructure that has forced community anchor institutions in currently underserved areas to operate with levels of Internet, telecommunication and networking service that are below their needs.

Merit Network has continued to distinguish itself as a leader among fellow BTOP Broadband Infrastructure grant awardees for its vision and success implementing REACH-3MC. The SHLB BTOP Summit will be the third national conference Merit has presented their REACH-3MC Project at this year.

Please refer to the event website for more information about the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition BTOP Summit on March 29th, including the complete program agenda and registration information. There is no charge to attend or present at the Summit, and members of the press are welcome.

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

About REACH-3MC

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 the SHLB Coalition

The SHLB Coalition (pronounced “shell-bee”) was created in June of 2009 to ensure that schools, health care providers, libraries and other community anchor institutions have affordable, high-capacity broadband connections. Members of the Coalition share the view that high-bandwidth broadband services are increasingly vital for telemedicine, distance learning, e-government, job-training and employment, social networking, innovative research and development, and many other essential services provided by anchor institutions to their communities.

For more information: www.shlbc.org

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