Recently, Merit Network had the pleasure of welcoming state and federal officials to our headquarters. They joined us to celebrate the culmination of multiple BTOP awards that together will deliver the transformative power of broadband to communities throughout Michigan. The excitement we shared with the many stakeholders who participated in our grant announcement event in August is as strong today as it was when we first learned of our award. During the event, I could not help but think how incredibly gratifying it is to know that all the hard work put into the planning and application will soon become a reality.
For over 40 years, our organization has worked together with others to achieve the most for our members. It is this same spirit of collaboration that underscored the vision and efforts of so many that were the focus of Merit’s broadband grant announcement and this project going forward.
Our project, REACH-3MC  will create over 2,000 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure that will serve all sectors of society. This will be accomplished through a unique public-private partnership that engages Merit, a non-profit, and eight commercial providers who will own strands of fiber over various segments of the network.
Merit's portion of the fiber will allow anchor institutions across the state, such as the Dickinson County Library, Alpena Community College, the Michigan State Police in St. Ignace, Berrien County Intermediate School District, and over 100 other schools, hospitals, libraries, and government offices to be directly connected to Merit's high-performance network, at speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps), (and upwards of 900 more will have the same option to connect.) The project plans to spur more affordable broadband in the area and connect Michigan's citizens to world-class broadband. Our partners will then bring high-speed service to homes and businesses in the service areas across the state’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas.
Two other BTOP projects that were also celebrated at our grant announcement event in August will leverage the REACH-3MC infrastructure:
Michigan State University’s (MSU) Evidence Based  Computing Centers  project will establish computer centers and programming that will be coordinated with libraries, community colleges and other anchor institutions. By combining MSU’s Round 1 and Round 2 awards, over 2,500 computers will be installed in nearly 300 new or upgraded computer centers across the state.
The other project, Bloomingdale Communications’ Van Buren County Fiber Ring , will deploy a high-speed fiber network that will connect target community anchor institutions in the county including school districts and governmental agencies. Both REACH-3MC infrastructure and the Van Buren County Fiber Ring will also leverage each other’s project as each network will connect with one another at two separate locations, and each will connect MSU computing centers locations to their networks.
This is true collaboration.
The well-conceived projects funded through BTOP will help tell the story of the transformative power broadband holds to revitalize communities across the nation. And Merit is honored to lead an effort of this magnitude on behalf of Michigan.
We are grateful for the support we received from the Governor’s Office, the Michigan Department of Information Technology, the greater Merit Community throughout Michigan, and grateful for the support we have received since our award from Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling and his team at NTIA—who even arrived early to tour Merit’s offices and speak with us about the progress of our project.
I find it fitting to end on the same note as Representative John Dingell when he closed his remarks at our event: “you ain’t seen nothing yet, because we’re going to keep on going!”
Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, U.S. Representative John Dingell (not pictured), and NTIA Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling joined a cast of Round 1 and Round 2 BTOP award winners in Ann Arbor in August that featured Dr. Donald Welch of Merit Network, Dr. Kurt DeMaagd of Michigan State University and Mark Bahnson of Bloomingdale Communications.