$3 Million CARES Grant Awarded to Merit Network
Ann Arbor, MI /PRNewswire/ - Merit Network was awarded a $2.99 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Recovery Assistance Grant to support construction of 70 miles of middle-mile fiber optic infrastructure in the Upper Peninsula.
The infrastructure corridor project, named Leveraging Infrastructure for Transforming the Upper Peninsula (LIFT-UP) will pass through Chippewa, Luce and Mackinac counties. This fiber will enable local internet service providers to interconnect with Merit's middle-mile backhaul to bring reliable, high-speed broadband internet to rural and remote communities in Michigan's Eastern Upper Peninsula.
The EUPConnect Collaborative, led by the Easter Upper Peninsula Intermediate School District (EUPISD) and the Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission (EUPRPDC) will collaborate with Merit on the project. They have collaborated with Merit's Michigan Moonshot initiative and the Quello Center for Media and Information Policy at Michigan State University for several years on citizen-scientist crowdsourced research to identify and map broadband access and adoption statistics regionally. An understanding of the prevalence and impact of the digital divide for the region was a first step in developing a blueprint for equitable access.
"The Eastern UP Regional Planning and Development Commission is excited to see this significant EDA investment in broadband for the region. Broadband availability and accessibility has long been the highest priority in our region's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. The MERIT LIFT-UP project will provide much needed investment to move the needle on this issue and make the region more economically competitive on the national and global stage," said Jeff Hagan, CEO of EUP Regional Planning.
"Every community deserves access to modern digital infrastructure to support education, telemedicine, public safety, workforce needs and economic development, regardless of geographic location. This new federal investment in the Eastern UP helps advance this goal, and was made possible by constructive collaboration and local leadership," said Joe Sawasky, Merit's president and CEO.
Last-mile internet service providers, community anchor institutions, municipal entities, and others penned letters of support for Merit's grant application. Many signaled their intention to leverage this new infrastructure to enable last mile connectivity within the community, including Highline-Michigan.
"Support of Merit's grant application was important to Highline's relentless effort to reduce the digital divide," echoed Bruce Moore, CEO of Highline-Michigan. "Highline is focused on the efficient and sustainable creation of a world class fiber network. This network now delivers a real high speed internet connection to the doorsteps of households long suffering with inadequate service. Working with Merit is critical to our success."
About Merit Network:
Merit Network, Inc. is an independent nonprofit corporation governed by Michigan's public universities. Merit 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 at the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking and IT solutions to Michigan's public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations. For more information: www.merit.edu.