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Merit, Allband Join Forces on Broadband Expansion Projects

Ann Arbor-based Merit Network Inc. and the Curran-based Allband Communications Cooperative said Tuesday that they will work together to save taxpayer money on their Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and Broadband Initiative Program projects, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the federal stimulus.

Allband and Merit have signed an agreement to collaborate on the construction of their two projects in Hillman and Mikado in a lightly populated section of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Merit will also be signing an agreement to co-locate network equipment at Allband's offices in Hillman. The Hillman location links Merit's first and second round BTOP projects.

Merit and Allband have been working together to provide high capacity broadband services in Northeast Michigan since 2009, according to Bob Stovall, vice president of network engineering and operations for Merit.

"Our two ARRA projects will be a catalyst, allowing our two organizations to work together to provide services to additional communities in Northern Michigan," Stovall said. "By working together Merit and Allband will maximize the collective investment by sharing construction cost. Allband's project will leverage Merit's middle-mile BTOP infrastructure project to bring last-mile service to the community of Mikado. Merit will leverage Allband's project to provide services to the non-profit community members such as schools, public safety and municipalities. This collaboration is an example on how two organizations can work together to meet the needs of Michigan's rural communities."

Allband received two grants from the stimulus totaling $9.7 million to provide broadband access in un-served areas of Northern Michigan. The award will provide Fiber to the Home last mile high-speed data and Voice over Internet Protocol services to Allband's surrounding rural community in Northeastern Michigan.

"New access to broadband over fiber will spur economic activity in one of the most economically distressed states in our country and create and save jobs," said Ron Siegel, general manager of the Allband Communications Cooperative.

Merit Network is in the process of building a 2,300 mile fiber-optic network throughout Michigan with the assistance of stimulus BTOP grants totaling $102 million, plus a 20 percent match in funds from Merit and its sub-recipients. The Reach Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative project is one of the largest BTOP projects in the country and is expected to serve 52 counties in both the Upper and Lower Peninsula.

Allband was incorporated as a non-profit cooperative to provide telecommunication services to previously unserved areas in Michigan that do not have access any traditional wired phone service or high-speed data access. Allband Communications Cooperative is Michigan's first telephone cooperative and the state's first telephone provider to use Fiber to the Home technology that is capable of providing advanced telecommunications services which include, but are not limited to telephone, high-speed Internet, video and security services. Over the last several years, Allband has installed over 254 miles of fiber in its service territory, which has enhanced the economy and quality of life of its economically distressed region. For more information:

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. For more information

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