ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Merit Network was notified by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) late Friday, July 29, that the FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) for the REACH-3MC II project was approved. The notification enables Merit to begin the construction process in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula for REACH-3MC II.
In preparation for fiber construction, Merit was required to perform an environmental impact assessment, which took into account the proposed network routes and areas where there was protected land or wildlife. Merit’s fiber-optic cable routes were engineered to bypass protected areas, and the findings of the environmental assessment were submitted to the NTIA. With the NTIA’s confirmation of the study’s findings and approval of the FONSI, Merit can now proceed with final permitting and construction for the REACH-3MC II project.
“It is extremely good news. With the approval of the FONSI, we can now begin the construction phase in Northern Michigan and the U.P. for round two of the REACH-3MC project,” said Bob Stovall, vice president of network operations and engineering for Merit Network. “We can now focus on acquiring the necessary permits and begin construction of the fiber infrastructure.”
Merit Network received two grants from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The grants, along with private investment by Merit and its project sub-recipients, are funding the two phases of the REACH-3MC project, which will build over 2,200 miles of open-access, fiber-optic infrastructure in rural and underserved communities in Michigan.
“A project of this size and scope always comes with significant challenges, and this project has certainly had some,” said Don Welch, president and CEO for Merit Network. “Receiving our FONSI for round II, which covers a significant area of our state and has many environmental hurdles, is a significant accomplishment. I am happy with our progress and believe that we have laid the foundation necessary to build this network within the time limitations legislated by Congress and within the budget we created in our proposal.”