ANN ARBOR — Merit Network Inc. announced Wednesday that it has established 10 Gbps (gigabit per second) connectivity between all public university Governing Member campuses.

The completion of REACH-3MC Round 1 construction, current progress on REACH-3MC Round 2, and a recently completed equipment refresh have made the increase in capacity possible.

“The 10 Gbps upgrade between Governing Member sites supports the research and collaborative efforts of Michigan’s leading public universities,” said Michael Milliken, director of network engineering for Merit. “Whether teaming up with a partner researcher at another university or working with a Merit Member from a different research and education segment like health care, government or community college, our core backbone remains on the leading-edge of networking technology and a strategic asset to member initiatives.”

Added Roger Rehm, chairman of the Merit board and CIO at Central Michigan University: “The Merit Board is very excited about the possibilities this achievement brings to the Merit community and the state of Michigan. These are exciting times in higher education, and, with this announcement, Merit continues to position itself in the forefront of state research and educational networks and to underscore the competitiveness of higher education in the state of Michigan. These faster connections will more easily enable research partnerships and teaching collaborations among the Governing Member institutions, while the expanded bandwidth will provide the Michigan educational community with faster and more transparent access to educational programs and resources.”

The success of the REACH-3MC Round 1 project includes Merit upgrades to Ferris State University in Big Rapids from a 1 Gbps to a 10 Gbps connection, and new redundant 10 Gbps connections to CMU in Mt. Pleasant and Grand Valley State University in Allendale.

As part of the continued progress of the REACH-3MC Round 2 project, Merit completed 10 Gbps equipment upgrades at Governing Member campuses in the Upper Peninsula, Lake Superior State University and Northern Michigan University in 2012, and Michigan Technological University in early 2013.

“Michigan Tech is very excited about the completion of the REACH projects, which will bring us 10 Gbps bandwidth and completely redundant fiber connections to the Internet,” said Walter Milligan, CIO and professor, Materials Science and Engineering, Michigan Technological University.

“Due to our increasing consumption and delivery of educational and research online content, our bandwidth requirements have increased dramatically over the last few years, and our currently-available bandwidth is no longer adequate. As we continue to increase utilization of online learning resources and cloud-based services, as well as research collaborations, this new service is an absolute necessity.”

“One area where this service will provide immediate value is our collaboration with Central Michigan University on a new joint Doctorate of Physical Therapy program. Students will be physically located in both Houghton and Mt. Pleasant, and ‘Telepresence-style’ live streaming of lectures and clinical activities to and from both sites using multiple HD cameras is a key feature of the program. Access to high-speed, reliable connectivity is not optional in programs like this.”

Most recently, Merit lit a 10 Gbps fiber connection crossing the Mackinaw Bridge, which was acquired as part of the REACH-3MC Round 2 project in an agreement with the Mackinaw Bridge Authority. That connection has helped provide the 10 Gbps connectivity between Governing Members in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

Merit Governing Members include Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Lake Superior State University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Northern Michigan University, Oakland University, the University of Michigan, Western Michigan University and Wayne State University.

The Rural, Education, Anchor, Community and Heathcare – Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative project, or REACH-3MC, is using $102 million in federal stimulus money plus a 20 percent local match to build 2,300 miles of super-high-speed fiber-optic data lines through rural and underserved areas of Michigan.

Merit Network Inc., 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 to conduct the then-groundbreaking project of connecting their mainframe computers. Merit later became Michigan’s first Internet service provider, and today provides high-performance networking products and services to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.
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