FRANKENMUTH — Air Advantage is bringing fiber optic cable to huge portions of Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola counties in the first phase of a massive effort to bring unlimited bandwidth to some of the most remote areas of Michigan.

This project is a result of $64 million awarded to Air Advantage through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the federal stimulus.

The company began installing its infrastructure on April 9 and already has about 20 miles installed. The first phase will be lit up by mid-July and should encompass at least 200 miles. Phase two — which will complete the eventual 500-mile network stretching throughout the Michigan Thumb and connecting the entire area to the rest of Michigan and beyond — should begin in the fall and mostly be finished by the end of the year depending on the weather.

“For far too long, large portions of fertile Michigan territory has been neglected of ultra-high-speed Internet capabilities, making it harder for commerce to grow and thrive in a fast-moving national and global economy,” said Scott Zimmer, president of Air Advantage. “Our investment in fiber optic cable is designed to make sure each customer has a great Internet experience, but also to help businesses and organizations keep up with current and future technology capabilities that will connect what some consider remote areas of our state, to the world.”

When the entire network is complete, Air Advantage will have invested tens of millions of dollars throughout Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac and Saginaw Counties, and will add service to northern Macomb and Oakland counties, plus Midland, Bay, Genesee, Shiawassee, Livingston, Lapeer and St. Clair Counties.

Air Advantage has doubled its staff since January of 2011, when there were 17 employees. The ARRA project has added nearly 20 new towers to the Air Advantage network.  This new fiber optic project will continue to add jobs to the community and the current 38 employees now on staff. By the time all 500 miles of fiber optics is installed throughout the Thumb and the ARRA project is complete, Air Advantage expects to employ between 100 and 120 people.

Air Advantage takes pride in its local roots and business longevity in the Michigan Thumb area, where it installed the first customer in July 2002. The company can customize networks as needed, and if there’s ever a problem the staff cannot handle the owners will go directly to customers’ home or business.

“I have lived, worshiped and volunteered in the Michigan Thumb my entire life – I have to answer to my neighbors,” Zimmer said. “I talk to my customers every day and I enjoy it; we’re more concerned about our customers than our revenue. We focus more on customer care than being a nameless, faceless commodity Internet provider.”

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