ANN ARBOR — IDG’s Computerworld Honors Program has announced Merit Network Inc. as a 2013 Laureate in recognition of its Rural Education Anchor Community Health care – Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative project.

The annual award program honors visionary applications of information technology promoting positive social, economic and educational change.

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In this case, Merit is using two federal stimulus grants totaling $102 million plus a 20 percent local match to build nearly 2,300 miles of high-speed fiber optic data cable to rural areas of Michigan where broadband was either completely unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

Computerworld vice president and publisher said Merit Network was among a class of 2013 laureates whose “projects demonstrate how IT can advance organizations’ ability to compete, innovate, communicate and prosper.”

And Merit president and CEO Don Welch said his organization “has a vision of equal opportunity to access information throughout Michigan and the REACH-3MC collaboration has propelled us to the brink of achieving our vision. This network lays an information-age foundation for education and economic development that will reap returns for decades.” 

Merit and the REACH-3MC Project are recognized in the Mobile Access award category for its unique fiber-optic infrastructure build-out through rural and underserved areas of Michigan, Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

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The REACH-3MC project features public-private collaboration, pairing Merit  with seven commercial ISPs to achieve a cost-effective solution that benefits all sectors of society: homes, businesses and community anchor institutions.

The Computerworld Honors Program awards will be presented at the Gala Evening and Awards Ceremony on June 3 at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Founded by International Data Group in 1988, The Computerworld Honors Program is governed by the not-for-profit Computerworld Information Technology Awards Foundation. Computerworld Honors is the longest running global program to honor individuals and organizations that use information technology to promote positive social, economic and educational change. Additional information about the program and a Global Archive of past Laureate case studies, as well as oral histories of Leadership Award recipients can be found at

Merit Network, 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 State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University created Merit to manage the then-groundbreaking task of linking the three schools’ mainframe computers. Merit later became Michigan’s first Internet service provider. Today, it provides high-performance networking and IT products and services to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.

REACH-3MC is in the process of building 2,287 miles of open-access, advanced fiber-optic network through rural and underserved communities in Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The network provides backhaul to key connection points in Wisconsin and Minnesota. REACH-3MC connects 143 community anchor institutions as the network is built and will pass 900 more over time. Led by Merit 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 two grants from the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the federal stimulus.

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