Broadband is a powerful, enabling technology that is fast becoming the engine of economic growth in America. Increasingly, businesses seeking to open or expand operations look to see not only whether a community has robust broadband access, but also whether potential workers have digital literacy skills and tools. The economic future of Michigan communities depends not only upon whether robust broadband infrastructure is present but also upon whether businesses and individuals fully utilize that technology to grow and develop local economies.
NLEA partner Merit Network, Inc., headquartered in Ann Arbor since 1966, owns and operates America’s longest running research and education network. Governed by Michigan’s major public universities, Merit’s network backbone is a strategic collaboration and innovation asset. It connects universities, K-12 schools, libraries, health care, government institutions and other nonprofits across the state.
After receiving $128 million in federal funding to revitalize broadband Internet access across rural Michigan, Merit began the REACH-3MC initiative to provide backhaul infrastructure to increase availability and performance of affordable Internet service for Community institutions, businesses and homes left with Internet speeds far below their needs. The organization could finally realize its nearly 50-year dream of spreading state-of-the-art broadband services across thousands of acres of rural Michigan.
Merit has expanded their fiber backbone by 59 percent since REACH-3MC began. In fact, more than 1 million homes and 55,000 businesses will benefit as direct customers of a REACH-3MC ISP. ISPs can also access 51 central office facilities to leverage the infrastructure of existing ILECs for improved service. As a “middle-mile” project, the aim of REACH-3MC was not to directly connect every home and business in a certain service area, but to build backhaul into an entire region. Thanks to the success of REACH-3MC, Merit continues to work with NLEA to add laterals to complete the last mile for end-users, businesses and community institutions throughout the NLEA service area.
Excerpts taken from a story written originally by Katherine Johnson on Aug. 7, 2014.
Connect Michigan Works Towards Widespread Broadband
Connect Michigan, in partnership with the Michigan Public Service Commission, is working to ensure that all can experience the benefits of broadband. Technology, especially widespread access, use and adoption of broadband, improves all areas of life. Connect Michigan is continuing its development of a variety of broadband maps for the state. These maps help provide a roadmap for expanded adoption, access and use of broadband in the state.
Connect Michigan is working in coordination with Michigan Public Service Commission, Michigan’s State Planning and Development Regions, townships, counties, and other stakeholders to identify specific and relevant community stakeholders to serve as local technology champions. Led by Connect Michigan Regional Consultants, these local champions are building community broadband teams that leverage the program’s technical assistance and mapping tools (maps, research) across targeted sectors to establish specific goals, recommendations, and action plans at the community level. These community plans will also be assimilated at a state level to support the ongoing state strategic planning process.
NLEA’s Team of Economic Development Specialists can assist communities in finding the most effective approach to meet their needs. To learn more about our services and full range of community development solutions, please contact us at 231-582-6482, or by email.