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Merit Response to Aerial Fiber Allegations


I’m writing you as Merit’s President and CEO regarding negatively-cast publicity you may read in the near future concerning Merit’s aerial fiber plant in portions of Michigan.
In order to support the federal effort to rapidly build and deploy high-speed Internet service to underserved populations around the United States, Merit expanded its fiber optic network infrastructure by more than 1,000 miles through the first round of a federal grant program supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project was titled the “Rural Education Anchor Community Healthcare Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative” (“REACH-3MC” for short). This network physically connected over 150 community anchor institutions in Michigan that had limited access to high-speed network connectivity. The REACH-3MC initiative served as a model for the nation, and has been recognized by the White House and Congress.
As part of this project and in accordance with federal objectives, Merit entered into contracts with commercial, for-profit Internet providers to allow them to provide network connections to business and residential customers in unserved and underserved areas of our state along the same routes. Unfortunately, Merit has been engaged in a financial dispute with one of these commercial providers regarding nonpayment of that provider’s share of maintenance fees for the use of the REACH-3MC network.
During this dispute, it was brought to our attention by this commercial provider that some aerial fiber on a portion of the REACH-3MC network did not meet minimum height requirements on utility poles. This company is now threatening to publicize these safety concerns against Merit. As a non-profit technology organization, the safety of our community is Merit’s first and foremost concern. Accordingly, Merit had already been actively engaged in remedying this issue and has dedicated a team to assess and address the situation as their highest priority. Merit’s senior leadership team is working with qualified, independent experts to both assess the compliance of the REACH-3MC network with applicable standards, and to fix the issues that may exist. Merit takes this matter seriously, and we are aggressively dedicating resources to resolve the concern, with or without the threat of negative publicity.
Merit has worked tirelessly, in partnerships throughout the state, to connect organizations and build community in areas where others could not – or would not – provide service. Our values include community, integrity and people, and we will never waver from those, despite allegations that you may read.
Bottom line: We care about our Michigan community, and we will fix the things that need it.
We look forward to serving you as a highly-trusted partner, reliably and transparently, for the next 50 years, as we have done for the last 50. Merit welcomes any questions or concerns you may have on this matter.
Joseph Sawasky
President and CEO
Merit Network, Inc.