Tag: "Merit"

Posted October 15, 2021 by Maren Machles

Countywide Internet access is no longer up in the air for Washtenaw County, Michigan residents. On September 15th, the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved up to $15.5 million in funding to support the County Broadband Task Force’s efforts to achieve countywide broadband equity. 

Washtenaw County (pop. 372,000) has long struggled with bringing broadband to its residents because incumbent providers wouldn’t invest in its more rural communities. However, with this new investment from the county and the recent wins by Mercury Broadband (a Kansas-based ISP, focused on connecting rural America) and Midwest Energy and Communications (MEC, a Michigan electric cooperative) from the 2020 Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, the county promises the remaining gaps in broadband will be closed. 

“This is a huge win for every resident of Washtenaw County,” Barbara Fuller, Chair of the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force said in a press release. “The Board of Commissioners tasked us with achieving countywide broadband equity more than 5 years ago, and here we are.”

The next step for the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force is to work with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to develop a plan moving forward. In our previous coverage, we highlighted how the task force was starting negotiations with four different ISPs: MEC, Washtenaw Fiber, Comcast, and Charter-Spectrum. The press release announcing the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners vote did not mention which ISPs the task force will move forward with, if not all four. Construction start and completion dates are...

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Posted October 4, 2021 by Jericho Casper

Need better Internet access in your community but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you’re in the middle of a community broadband project but have hit a roadblock?

Be one of 100 broadband champions attending the Michigan Moonshot Broadband Summit at the one-day event on Tuesday, November 9th in Traverse City, Michigan. 

The Michigan Moonshot Summit is a day-long conference focused on helping representatives of local governments, community anchor institutions, and economic development groups navigate the hurdles involved when pursuing a regional or community broadband project. The event will include workshopping opportunities where attendees can collaborate with industry thought leaders to address impending issues and identify solutions.

Merit, a statewide educational and research network run by Michigan’s public university system, is hosting the event. Michigan Moonshot is Merit’s effort to improve Internet access in the state by collecting accurate data, disseminating educational resources, influencing policy decisions, and connecting communities to funding.

“From determining ownership models and drafting network designs, to navigating the grant landscape, developing public-private partnerships, and deploying mapping initiatives, this year’s focus is singular — ACTION,” reads the Moonshot Summit website.

To attend this year’s event, “attendees must be a Merit Member and/or Broadband champions who are part of regional planning, building, and running efforts; economic development groups and local governments; or, institutions, community anchors and municipalities addressing the ‘digital divide.’”

Breakout Sessions and Speakers

The first breakout session of the Moonshot Summit will assist municipalities in “Navigating the METRO Act.” 

Aspen Wireless Founder and President, Jim Selby, and Municipal FTTP Program Manager, Mike Reen, will walk communities through METRO Act requirements to provide an understanding of the mandatory steps communities are required to complete before constructing their own broadband...

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Posted August 5, 2021 by Maren Machles

Washtenaw County (pop. 367,600), home of B-24 bomber, a once booming automotive industry and the University of Michigan, is making strides toward bringing the region back into an economic powerhouse, running 20 miles of fiber from downtown Ann Arbor through Ypsilanti Township, connecting the business and commercial corridors of four different townships ultimately ending at the American Center for Mobility.  

Ann Arbor SPARK, a non-profit economic development organization, received $2.4 million in federal funding from the CARES Act in July to start the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Corridor Fiber Optic Backbone project. Ann Arbor Spark contributed $200,000 to the $600,000 local match requirement needed to obtain the funds, while Washtenaw County contributed $112,000, the City of Ann Arbor contributed $138,000, and  Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Local Development Finance Authority contributed $150,000. 

Shaking off the Rust

Ypsilanti, Michigan (pop. 20,800) led the country in cutting edge automotive manufacturing for decades. Just 5 miles east of Ypsilanti, lay the Willow Run manufacturing complex and airport where Henry Ford produced B-24 heavy bombers for World War II, spurring a flood of workers in the region and ultimately leading to a housing shortage. The influx overwhelmed the market, forcing the Federal Public Housing Administration to step in and build dormitories for the workers. When the war ended, automotive manufacturers shuffled in and out of the complex, continuing to create jobs.

The area's economic boom started to peak in the 1970s with many manufacturing jobs moving overseas. While there are still manufacturing, service, and academic jobs available, like many other communities located in the controversially named “rust belt,” the economic vitality of the region has struggled to see a comeback. 

In an effort toward revitalization, Ann Arbor SPARK is working with local partners to invest in economic opportunities in Washtenaw County. In collaboration with the University of Michigan, Michigan...

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Posted June 13, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Merit Network, owner and operator of Michigan's research and education network and source of many wonderful resources for communities looking to improve local Internet access through its Moonshot initiative, is running a webinar on June 16th from 12-1pm CT on the benefits of the open access model:

Digital networks are long past the point where it’s sufficient to merely provide internet access. Having a sustainable network provides the freedom of information exchange, fosters a competitive ecosystem, and enables digital innovation essential for growth and long-term affordability, making it the best option for residents, institutions and businesses.

Experts from Merit Network, ETI Software Solutions and EntryPoint discuss the benefits of implementing an open-access network-a strong alternative to the pervasive single-service provider model used today.

Panelists include Jeff Christensen (President, EntryPoint Networks), Jeffrey Denham (Broadband Specialist, ETI Software Solutions), Bob Stovall (VP of Infrastructure Strategy and Research, Merit Network), Peter Pizzutillo (Vice President, ETI Software Solutions), Devin Cox (EVP of Business Development, Entrypoint Networks), Pierrette Dagg, Director of Marketing and Communications, Merit Network). 

Read more about open access at our Learn page, or listen to Jeff Christensen talk more about the open-access model on Episode 424 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast below.

Posted March 3, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

We’ve been having a lot of conversations with cities and communities recently looking for solutions to bridging the digital divide. If you’re new to the broadband space and looking for guidance on short- and long-term results, here’s a good place to start. Christopher joined the Michigan Moonshot's Community Education series recently with a presentation titled “A Community Guide to Solving the Digital Divide.”

It breaks down in an accessible way the key concepts, options, and costs to consider. Communities across the country face an array of situations in bridging the broadband gap, including city size, the scope of the problem, available infrastructure, existing ally organizations, and funding avenues.

Christopher covers all of these, as well as inventorying local resources and talent, energizing community officials, and how important it is to define success early on in the process.

His presentation also includes as examples a lot of the gap-network successes we’ve seen over the last year, including San Rafael, California, Providence, Rhode Island, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Tucson, Arizona. Read about those stories to learn more about the goals set, challenges faced, and successes by local officials, nonprofit leaders, and residents in those cities.

Watch the webinar below, and be sure to stay tuned for the questions at the end.

Posted March 2, 2021 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

We don’t often get to spend a whole episode diving into the earliest work that communities do to set the foundation for progress in expanding high-quality broadband access down the road, but that’s what we’re talking about today.

This week on the podcast Christopher is joined by Pierrette Renée Dagg, Director of Marketing and Communications for the MERIT Network, and John Egelhaaf, Executive Director of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission

The two share the history of efforts in Berrien County, Michigan, and how a group of residents and local officials began pursuing better Internet connectivity a few years ago. Pierrette and John share the work that’s gone into the formation of a broadband task force, the identification of avenues and goals, and collaboration with hundreds of community partners along the way.

The story they tell is one of the power of partnerships and outreach groups (like anchor institutions andlibraries, senior centers, HOAs, fraternal orgs, and PTA groups) in contributing to a growing momentum.

This show is 36 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Read the transcript here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes ...

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Posted December 8, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

A new project borne out out of the Michigan Moonshot Initiative promises to help thousands of families and students without home Internet access get online. Led by the Merit Network, a coalition of partners (including Toyota, Cisco, the Detroit Public Library, the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force, and county school districts) is installing Wi-Fi hardware at 50 sites around the southeastern part of the state to bring broadband access to thousands. Nine locations are up and running, with more soon to follow. 

The effort is taking place in the cities of Detroit, Inkster, Flint, as well as Washtenaw County. Toyota and Cisco are providing funds and hardware, and the project takes advantage of the Merit Network’s extensive fiber backbone running throughout the state (4,000 miles in total). Wayne State University is also participating, and inviting students and faculty and staff to participate in a broadband survey. Funds are being dispersed in the form of grants which will go to community organizations to boost existing Wi-Fi networks at schools and other anchor institutions across participating areas.

At the moment, the Detroit Public Library’s nine sites are the only ones active, but there are an additional 24 ready to be activated, and ten more pending after that. These include a host of early childhood centers, elementary, middle, and high schools, private schools, and community centers; in addition to the nine Detroit Public Library sites, installation will take place at six community centers around the city of Detroit, seven township halls via the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force, and almost three dozen locations across the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. See the full list of active and upcoming sites, and a map of current sites below.

Atiim J. Funchess, assistant director of...

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Posted November 30, 2020 by Sean Gonsalves

The failure of policy and leadership at the federal level in addressing the digital divide was ever more clearly exposed as Covid-19 restrictions were put into place last spring. And, as the pandemic continues to rage, daunting connectivity challenges remain. 

Yes, the Connect America Fund (CAF) II program has doled out over $11 billion since 2015 in subsidies to the big telcos like AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, Windstream, and Consolidated ostensibly to upgrade rural broadband to speeds of at least 10/1 Megabits per second (Mbps). But, as Doug Dawson, president of CCG Consulting notes, it’s been a massive subsidy failure given that “even in 2015, it was ludicrous to spend money to build 10/1 Mbps broadband” – the same year the FCC defined broadband as 25/3 Mbps, which means “the FCC was investing in new Internet infrastructure in 2015 that didn’t qualify as broadband at the time of the award of funding.”

And there is reason to doubt that those subsidized upgrades were even completed, even as the FCC just extended the CAF II program for a seventh year.

So as states — and in many instances, local municipalities — step into the breach, the National Governors Association has released a new report that outlines a list of strategies governors can use to increase broadband access in underserved communities. 

Published just before Thanksgiving, the report first lays out the challenge:

According to the FCC, in 2018, at least 18.3 million people lacked access to fixed broadband in the United States that meets minimum [I]nternet access speed of 25/3. 1 Of those 18.3 million people, representing 6 percent of the total population, 14 million live in rural areas and 1 million live on Tribal lands, which amounts to 22 percent and 28 percent of those respective geographic populations [even as] studies have claimed that the FCC data is undercounting the number of people in the U.S. without fixed broadband access, and that the total may be as high as 42 million people.

“In addition to lack of access, the cost of broadband services remains a considerable barrier for many households,” the report points out. “The COVID-19 pandemic has...

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Posted May 11, 2020 by Ry Marcattilio-McCracken

Merit Network is hosting a weekly Michigan Moonshot Educational Series in the lead-up to their Broadband Summit this fall, and as part of the programming, Director of Community Broadband Networks initiative Christopher Mitchell recently hosted a webinar called “Exploring the Basics of Broadband.” Aimed at community leaders and the interested public, it explores the different solutions — and their relative advantages and disadvantages — in an accessible way.

Access the webinar on Merit's website, or watch the video below.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Christopher offers a frank discussion and an overview of the present deployments and future prospects of cable, digital subscriber line (DSL), mobile and fixed wireless, satellite, and fiber optic network technologies for both high-density urban areas and sparsely populated rural ones. In particular the webinar succeeds at cutting through industry speak and assessing the practical impacts, as well as the breadth and depth of choices, that local communities should consider in their efforts to connect all their citizens with a modern, reliable network. The webinar also includes discussion of economies of scale, financial feasibility, legal limitations, and the current 5G hype, and is intended to equip attendees with the information they need to contribute to local efforts at increasing Internet access. As an added bonus for listeners, Christopher provides commentary on Smokey and the Bandit, Burt Reynolds, and Austin Powers.

Additional Information

Merit will be also hosting another webinar later this month titled “Local Community Broadband: A Good Answer to Internet Connectivity”, on Thursday, May 28, at 12 p.m. ET.

For more, visit our Key Points page, see our coverage of other communities that have explored building municipal networks, or browse the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

...

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Posted April 16, 2020 by Katie Kienbaum

Need better Internet access in your community but don’t know where to start? Want to educate your local leaders on broadband solutions but they can’t tell DSL from fiber optic?

Join the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Christopher Mitchell on Tuesday, May 5 at 12 p.m. ET for a webinar on broadband basics as part of Merit’s Michigan Moonshot Educational Series. The conversation will introduce various broadband solutions and technologies, giving participants the necessary foundation to start working on better Internet access locally.

Merit, a statewide educational and research network run by Michigan’s public university system, is hosting the event. Michigan Moonshot is Merit’s effort to improve Internet access in the state by collecting accurate data, disseminating educational resources, influencing policy decisions, and connecting communities to funding.

ABCs of Connectivity

Christopher’s presentation, on Tuesday, May 5 at 12 p.m. ET, will “explore the trade-offs, capacity, and economics behind common Internet access technologies, including cable, DSL, mobile wireless, fixed wireless, satellite, and fiber optic,” according to the event page. The webinar will aim to give participants “the confidence to engage in broadband discussions, debates, and efforts to improve broadband Internet access.”

This introduction is ideal for residents, community leaders, and business owners who want to engage with local efforts to increase connectivity. If you already have a good understanding of broadband technologies, consider inviting local officials or stakeholders to the webinar to build their knowledge.

Sign up online in advance for the webinar link.

Dust up on the Rules

Merit is also hosting a second webinar later in the month titled “Local Community Broadband: A Good Answer to Internet Connectivity.” The presentation, scheduled for Thursday, May 28 at 12 p.m. ET, will explore the opportunities and the legal considerations of a community broadband project, including regulatory barriers....

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