ANN ARBOR — Merit Network Inc. has begun construction on a segment of fiber-optic cable between Petersburg and Blissfield. The segment is part of Merit Networks REACH-3MC network build-out, funded by the federal stimulus.

Construction will take place along a 13-mile span that begins west of Petersburg and continues to the village of Blissfield. The construction will consist primarily of aerial fiber deployment, with some small portions of underground installation.

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Said Bob Stovall, vice president of network operations and engineering for Merit: “As Merit continues to clear permits, our community will see construction accelerate all over the planned REACH-3MC route.”

FiberLink of Lapeer has been selected by Merit as the contractor to perform work on the segment. Construction is expected to last no longer than three weeks. The construction between Petersburg and Blissfield will tie into another build that begins in Monroe and heads west to Petersburg.

Added Karl Wuestenberg, president of Fiber Link: “Fiber Link and Merit have worked together on many fiber-optic cabling projects over the years, and it is gratifying to know that together we will extend the benefits of this technology to the citizens of Southeastern Michigan and across the state.”

Merit’s Rural, Education, Anchor, Community and Heathcare — Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative (REACH-3MC) project will serve as a nearly 2,300-mile extension of Merit’s high-speed network in rural areas of Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas with key interconnection points in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In 2010, Merit Network received two grants from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program that help fund REACH-3MC. The construction announced Monday is part of Merit’s Round 1 REACH-3MC build, which focuses on Michigan’s Southern Border, Lake Michigan shoreline and parts of Central and Northeastern Michigan.

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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, health care, and other non-profit organizations.

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REACH-3MC will build 2,287 miles of open-access, advanced fiber-optic network through rural and underserved communities in Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. 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. Led by Merit Network, Michigan’s research and education network, REACH-3MC includes sub-recipients from the private sector to make broadband readily available to households and businesses that lack adequate service options in the 52 counties that make up the project service area. REACH-3MC is funded by a grant from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly referenced as the federal stimulus package.

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Fiber Link is a communications construction company that provides Wide Area Network system design, project management, permitting, aerial and underground construction, fiber and copper cable splicing, ongoing maintenance, 24/7 trouble shooting diagnostics and repair, and Miss Dig monitoring.

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