Ann Arbor-based Merit Network Inc. Monday announced the selection of seven Michigan-based contractors that will perform outside plant construction for Merit’s Round 1 REACH-3MC broadband stimulus project.

As part of the project, Merit will build 1,017 miles of open-access, advanced fiber-optic infrastructure through rural and underserved communities in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

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“Merit is proud to announce these contractors who will join us on this project that will make a tremendous difference in Michigan,” said Merit president and CEO Don Welch. “The benefits of REACH-3MC to education and economic development will be profound and long-lasting.”

“This is a powerful example of Michigan companies working together to benefit communities throughout Michigan,” said Merit’s vice president of network operations and engineering Bob Stovall. “I am very excited to work with each of these organizations as we set out to create better resources for our state, and in the process, create jobs that will benefit the local economy.”

REACH-3MC fiber will improve education and quality of life in the service areas by connecting community anchor institutions to Merit’s high-performance network. The participation of commercial sub-recipients, who will own strands at various intervals in the network, will improve service to homes and businesses. And because the infrastructure is open-access, it will support local ISPs with new, affordable backhaul options.

REACH-3MC infrastructure will take the form of what is commonly referred to as a “condo build” in the telecommunications industry. Merit Network, having planned the network and applied for and received a grant, will be the owner of record for the fiber sheath and will be responsible for construction and maintenance. Within the fiber sheath, both Merit and commercial sub-recipients will own strands of fiber, creating separate networks within the same sheath.

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The seven contractors who will help to bring about the transformative power of broadband to communities throughout rural Michigan are:

AMcomm Telecommunications Inc. of White Lake,
Boardman River Communications of Kalkaska,
CCI Systems of Iron Mountain,
Earthcom of Lansing,
Fiber Link of Lapeer,
Thunder Bay Electric of Alpena,
Western Tel-Com of Holland,

The contractors announced today were selected from a number of qualified vendors that responded to a Request for Proposals Merit issued in August 2010. They will complete aerial and underground construction, installing conduit and deploying fiber through various segments of the network build.

Merit Network helps to fund REACH-3MC with a grant they received from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. BTOP is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, otherwise known as the Stimulus Package.

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 as a shared resource to help meet their common need for networking assistance. Since its formation, Merit Network has remained on the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking solutions to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.

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