Michigan State University (MSU), along with Merit Network, are receiving a $10.5 million National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program Grant to connect Michigan’s internet pathways.

The program is called Michigan Open Optical Network – Leveraging Innovation to Get High-Speed Technology (MOON-Light) and is meant to help address critical infrastructure gaps through technologically advanced, middle-mile fiber optic infrastructure across Michigan.

Further, it will allow interconnecting local internet service providers to bring affordable, robust, high-speed broadband internet to underserved and unserved populations across the state. The project will leverage funding from the NTIA’s Broadband Infrastructure Program, deploys equipment only on a statewide scale, requires no additional middle-mile fiber construction, and is expected to take 12 months for implementation.

“The MOON-Light initiative will have a transformational impact across the state in providing internet access and is a true force-multiplier for upcoming ISP last-mile projects,” said Joseph Sawasky, president and CEO of Merit Network, in a statement.

Letters of intent from various internet service providers (ISPs) have been signed to further public-private collaboration of MOON-Light.

“By receiving the NTIA grant, we’re able to forge a more equitable path forward,” said Melissa Woo, executive vice president for administration, chief information officer and chair of the Merit Network Board of Directors. “This solution enables equal and open access to broadband services to all Michiganders and can be leveraged to deliver education, health care, and employment services.”

According to the university, entire regions across Michigan lack high-performance fiber optical connections to the internet through middle mile infrastructure, with approximately 380,000 lacking connectivity to their homes and businesses.

“Once investment in the middle mile is completed in 2023, commercial and noncommercial service providers will be able to close the current gap in broadband access faster and more cheaply,” said Johannes M. Bauer, director of the Quello Center for Media and Information Policy at MSU. “This will enable Michiganders to more fully participate in the economy and communities to pursue new paths of economic development and inclusion.”

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.