ANN ARBOR (WWJ) — Merit Network, Michigan’s high-speed data provider for the government and nonprofit sector, has established another 10 gigabit-per-second network connection to northeast Lower Michigan and the southern Upper Peninsula.

Merit said its engineers have completed a 3,000 foot-long segment of fiber-optic network on the edge of Alpena and have lit a 10 gigabit-per-second network connection between Alpena in the northeast Lower Peninsula and Powers, a town in the south-central Upper Peninsula.

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The fiber-optic connection goes from Alpena west to Gaylord, then north to Indian River and across the Straits of Mackinac to St. Ignace, and then east to Escanaba and Powers.

This is Merit’s second 10 Gbps network path in the Upper Peninsula; the first goes from St. Ignace to Sault Ste. Marie.

With the completion of the network segment, Merit has nearly completed all of rounds one and two of the REACH-3MC fiber-optic network in Michigan. Only a segment between Houghton and Calumet in the Western Upper Peninsula remains.

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“We’ve built fiber-optic infrastructure all the way to Superior, Wisconsin,” said Michael Milliken, director of network engineering at Merit Network. “In Michigan, we have built and lit most of the REACH-3MC network in the Upper Peninsula, with routes going to Ironwood, Menominee and Houghton. Just the connection between Houghton, Hancock, and Calumet remains to be completed in Michigan. We also need to complete the DWDM network paths into Wisconsin and Minnesota.”

Merit’s completion of the fiber-optic network in the Alpena area will be celebrated on Monday, Oct. 28 with a special press event at Alpena Community College’s Newport Center. Community representatives will speak at the event, which starts at 3 p.m.

Said Elwood Downing, vice president of member relations, communications, services and product development at Merit: “We have been working hard to bring gigabit network speeds to the area for a number of years, and the new network will greatly benefit organizations in the community and in Northeast Michigan.”

In 2010, Merit Network received two federal stimulus awards totaling $102 million for REACH-3MC. The Rural, Education, Anchor, Community and Health care – Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative (REACH-3MC) is creating 2,287 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure in rural and underserved areas throughout Michigan and provide backhaul to key interconnection 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. More at

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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’s public universities created Merit as a shared resource to help meet their common need for networking assistance. Today, it provides high-performance networking to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations.