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Merit Selects Construction Vendor For First Phase Of REACH-3MC

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Ann Arbor-based Merit Network Inc. said Monday it had selected Earthcom Inc. as outside plant construction vendor for the first phase of Merit’s broadband stimulus project, REACH-3MC.

Earthcom was selected from a number of qualified vendors that responded to a Request for Proposal Merit issued in late August. Earthcom is the first of many construction vendors that will contribute to the completion of REACH-3MC.

“Earthcom has an experienced local team headquartered in Lansing, Michigan,” said Pete Miller, Merit’s director of network engineering and operations. “Earthcom is uniquely positioned to assist Merit in successfully deploying the network infrastructure in support of REACH-3MC — particularly the underground portions of the infrastructure.”

The first phase of construction will involve blowing new fiber through 21 miles of existing, buried conduit that REACH-3MC purchased from Manistee Intermediate School District. Additionally, splice enclosures and hand holes will be constructed. Earthcom’s expertise in underground construction will prove to be an asset as construction vendor for this phase of the project.

Earthcom, Inc. will participate in the first phase of REACH-3MC project construction. Additional contractors will be named to construct network segments in other parts of the state.

“This one small project will add six new employees to our team,” said Peter Bertsch, president and CEO of Earthcom Inc. “In addition it has created jobs for material providers, trucking companies, and the local area merchants. It is a great feeling to know we will be a small part of Michigan’s recovery.”

Earthcom, Inc. is a Lansing-based corporation with roughly 50 employees. Started in 1999, the company specializes in communication construction including outside plant and wireless applications.

For more information on REACH-3MC and Merit’s efforts to expand affordable, high-speed broadband access in Michigan, see www.merit.edu/meritformichigan

REACH-3MC will add 2,287 miles of high-speed fiber to Merit’s existing 1,600-mile-plus mile backbone network. Merit and sub-recipients will each own stands in a shared infrastructure.

Merit’s portion of the fiber will allow state and local governments, schools, libraries, healthcare facilities and other anchor institutions to connect to Merit’s private, high-performance network, which will enable them to lower costs, consolidate services and provide more to Michigan’s citizens.

The first phase of REACH-3MC is 1,017 miles long, traversing 32 counties, in the Lower Peninsula, 12 of which are completely underserved with high-speed Internet, and 14 of which have significant underserved areas according to NTIA standards. In addition, there are nine adjacent underserved counties that will see increased access and lower costs. It was funded by a $33.3 million federal stimulus grant announced in last January, and Merit chipped in another $7 million.

A second phase, granted in August, was funded by a $69.6-million federal stimulus grant to construct a 1,200-mile high-speed network in the Upper Peninsula.

The network will also provide backhaul to key connection 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.

Merit is Michigan’s oldest Internet service provider. A nonprofit owned by Michigan’s higher education community, it provides high-speed Internet access to universities, colleges, K-12 education and other public institutions and local government.

More at www.merit.edu or www.earthcom.us.

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