The National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Monday announced it’s awarding $10.5 million to Michigan State University and Merit Network, a nonprofit computing services group, to develop broadband infrastructure in the state.
The grant funds installation of infrastructure connecting main fiber optic service lines to communities that are underserved or entirely without access to high-speed internet. The “middle mile” project intends to allow internet providers to later hook into the network for “last mile” service delivery to households. There are about 380,000 homes and businesses in Michigan that lack any internet connectivity, according to MSU.
Michigan State University administrators said they applied for the grant, the final grant awarded by the NTIA as part of the $288 million Broadband Infrastructure Program, to accelerate broadband development while the state applies for a piece of the $45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program.
The grant was announced Monday at Michigan State University’s East Lansing campus by Andy Burke, the former Chattanooga, Tennessee, mayor who now serves as the Commerce Department’s broadband representative. Burke called the project the “backbone” of an effort ensuring Michigan’s households have access to high-speed internet.
Michigan’s middle-mile network is called MOON-Light, which stands for “Michigan Open Optical Network — Leveraging Innovation to Get High-Speed Technology.”
“Moonlight happens in the darkness and without the moonlight, you can’t see anything. When you turn on the lights, all of a sudden there are new areas to explore, things to create, people to see and things to do together, and that’s what we’re really talking about here,” Burke said during his remarks.
(Other attendees at the event included Michelle Lange, acting director of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, and Melissa Woo, MSU’s chief information officer.)
Internet service providers that intend to participate in the network so far include northern Michigan’s Barger Creek Wireless and Highline, which operates in Colorado, Georgia, Michigan and Texas.
The partnership plans to finish the project in 2023.