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Merit Lights More REACH-3MC II Network In The UP

ANN ARBOR (WWJ) -- Some of the most remote places in Michigan's Upper Peninsula now have Internet access that can be measured in gigabits per second.

Merit Network Inc., Michigan's supplier of fast Internet service to government, schools and nonprofits, announced completion of three significant segments of its Round II REACH-3MC fiber-optic network build-out in the Upper Peninsula -- St. Ignace to Watersmeet, Watersmeet to Houghton, and Powers to Menominee.

Merit has completed construction on these segments and activated optical network equipment that is used to "light" the newly installed fiber to provide service.

"I am proud to announce fiber continuity and lit service over such a substantial portion of the Upper Peninsula," said Michael Milliken, director of network engineering and operations, Merit Network.

Added Jim Lundberg, Upper Peninsula member relations manager for Merit: "The segments announced today provide an additional 445 miles of critical network infrastructure in the UP. The community anchor institutions connected are located in some of the most remote areas of our state. The success of Merit's outreach and the REACH-3MC project in the UP is enabling these institutions the ability to do some truly amazing things from an IT and connectivity standpoint."

The fiber-optic cable lit Wednesday is part of the Round II REACH-3MC "mainline." Led by Merit Network, the goal of REACH-3MC is to construct fiber-optic infrastructure that connects community anchor institutions (schools, libraries, health care, government, public safety) by way of "laterals," or spurs from the mainline.

An additional 28 community anchor institutions have received lateral connections along the completed network segments announced today. The laterals have 1 gigabit (Gbps) capacity and connect the anchor institutions to Merit's network. With the mainline now lit, Merit is working with these 28 anchor institutions to transition them to the new and improved service made possible by REACH-3MC.

In addition to the successfully lit segments announced today, Merit has completed installation of fiber optical cable in Michigan on Round II REACH-3MC, with the exception of a small segment west of Alpena and another stretch between Houghton to Calumet.

"In each of these locations, Merit is waiting for make ready pole repairs to be completed before attaching Round II REACH-3MC fiber," said Bob Stovall, vice president of network engineering and operations at Merit Network. "Merit plans to lit the segment from Watersmeet to Ironwood within the next week."

Construction crews continue to make progress on the Round II REACH-3MC route west of Ironwood, through northern Wisconsin to Duluth, Minn., as well as the fiber path south of Menominee, toward Green Bay, Wis. That will give the network important redundancy and backup capabilities by linking to high-speed networks in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Merit is currently working with Round I and Round II REACH-3MC participants to complete testing and final acceptance of each respective organization's fiber as it is completed.

Merit expects to announce completion on the remaining Round II REACH-3MC segments in Michigan's Northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas later this fall.

In 2010, Merit Network received two federal stimulus awards totaling $102 million for REACH-3MC. The Rural, Education, Anchor, Community and Health care – Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative (REACH-3MC) is creating 2,287 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure in rural and underserved areas throughout Michigan and provide backhaul to key interconnection points in Wisconsin and Minnesota. REACH-3MC will connect 105 community anchor institutions as the network is built and will pass 900 more over time. More at

Merit Network, 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. Today, it provides high-performance networking to Michigan's public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.

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