ANN ARBOR — Merit Network Inc. announced Tuesday the completion of two key segments of their REACH-3MC network build-out: Beulah to Traverse City, and Centreville to Coldwater.

Merit has completed construction on the segments and activated optical network equipment that is used to “light” the newly installed fiber to provide service.

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Tuesday’s announcement marks a significant achievement for the project as the REACH-3MC network has fiber continuity and lit service spanning approximately 569 miles, from Monroe in the southwest to the northwest into Traverse City.

The fiber-optic cable lit today is part of the Round I REACH-3MC “mainline.” Led by Merit Network, the goal of REACH-3MC is to construct fiber-optic infrastructure that connects communities together. In the process, Merit connects community anchor institutions (schools, libraries, health care, government, public safety) by way of “laterals,” or spurs, from the mainline.

An additional eight community anchor institutions have received lateral connections along the two completed network segments announced today. The laterals have 1 gigabit (Gbps) capacity and connect the anchor institutions to Merit’s network. With the mainline now lit, Merit expects to have those eight institutions transitioned to the new and improved service made possible by REACH-3MC within two weeks.

“I am proud to announce fiber continuity and lit service between Beulah and Traverse City and Centreville to Coldwater,” said Michael Milliken, director of network engineering for Merit Network. “With these segments now lit, our Round I project now has continuity spanning the entire REACH-3MC Southern corridor and the majority of the Western corridor.”

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Traverse City will operate as the site of Merit’s OADM node for their network in Northwest Michigan. The optical equipment activated today will give Merit the ability to light up to 40 10 gigabit (Gbps) waves out of Traverse City.

Merit expects to announce completion on the remaining Round I REACH-3MC segments before Jan. 31.

In January 2010, the Merit-led REACH-3MC Round I project received funding from the federal stimulus through the Broaqdband Technology Opportunities Program, part of the federal stimulus, to help construct a large fiber-optic network extension in rural and underserved areas of Michigan.

The Rural, Education, Anchor, Community and Heathcare – Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative (REACH-3MC) project will build 2,287 miles of open-access, advanced fiber-optic network through rural and underserved communities across 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.

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Michigan’s three major research universities created Merit Network in 1966 to link their computers. Today, Merit provides high-performance networking solutions to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.