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Michigan State University and Merit Network awarded $10.5 million to improve statewide broadband

Michigan State University STEM Building
Posted at 3:17 PM, Jun 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-27 23:02:54-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The state of Michigan is $10.5 million closer to "fixing the damn internet," thanks to federal funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Broadband Infrastructure Program.

Michigan State University and the Merit Network, an independent nonprofit corporation governed by Michigan’s public universities, were recently awarded the funds to address critical broadband infrastructure gaps.

"President Biden has made a pledge that every American will have access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet, and Michigan State and this grant are at the forefront of that promise," U.S. Department of Commerce Special Representative for Broadband Andy Berke said. "The fact that a university is getting this grant is a phenomenal piece, and we thank you for participating and being part of this."

It's a project they're calling MOON-Light.

"Moonlight happens in the darkness, and without the moonlight, you can't see anything," Berke said.

"It stands for Michigan Open Optical Network-Leveraging Innovation to Get High-speed Technology," MSU Chief Information Officer Melissa Woo said. "According to current conservative estimates, more than 380,000 Michigan residents do not have access to broadband internet."

According to the press release, entire regions across Michigan lack high-performance fiber optical connections to the internet through mainline attachments. Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said rural communities are particularly under-served.

"We need to understand that all internet access is not created equal," Gilchrist said. "Everyone does not have the same experience of the internet, and if your connection is inconsistent, if it does not have the bandwidth, you cannot enjoy and cannot take full advantage of this asset."

The MOON-Light Network will be an open-access network. It will enable middle-mile fiber optic infrastructure across the state to allow interconnecting local internet services to provide affordable, high-speed internet.

"This is basically the backbone that we're talking about that enables others to latch onto it, and then to create those last connections that go to households, overall in 74 counties to serve 17,000 unserved households," Berke said.

"We're also going to be able to improve existing service," Gilchrist said.

The MOON-Light Network is expected to take 12 months to implement.

As a part of their campaign, the initiative has taken up the slogan of #FixTheDamnInternet.

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