Michigan State University and Merit Network’s MOON-Light Program are joint recipients of a groundbreaking $10.5 million grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, NTIA, Broadband Infrastructure Program Grant.
The name, “Moon Light,” stands for “Michigan Open Optical Network – Laving Innovation to Get High-Speed Technology” and the grant would enable the intermediate mile fiber optic infrastructure across the state by interconnecting the Local Internet Service Providers, ISPs, bring high-speed broadband Internet to underserved and unserved population areas of Michigan.
ISPs such as Highline, Barger Creek and Northern Michigan University have already signed letters of intent to participate in the MOON-Light program.
Moreover, the implementation of this public and private collaboration is expected to take 12 months.
The Broadband Infrastructure Program is a precursor to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on November 15, 2021.
“Moonlight occurs in darkness. And without the moonlight, you can’t see anything,” said Andy Berke, Special Representative for Broadband at the U.S. Department of Commerce, during the MOON-Light celebration. “When you turn on the lights all of a sudden, there are new areas to explore to create people to see and things to do together. And that’s really what we’re talking about here. And so, on behalf of President Biden, I am honored to be here to present the State of Michigan with a $10.5 million grant to enable this project.
“In addition, MOON-Light will serve as an open-access network, serving 17,000 unserved homes in 74 counties across the state with affordable and reliable high-speed Internet access, especially in rural areas,” Berke said.
“What we’re seeing is a shift away from the internet being seen as a luxury,” Berke said. “It’s now seen as roads, water or the power grid. Everyone has access to it. At this time, we are at an installment stage. But the Commerce Department has $48 billion to make sure every American is connected. In addition to $14 billion for the FCC and $2 billion for the United States Department of Agriculture, we will make sure that Moonlight is everywhere and darkness is nowhere in the United States.
The grant will help MSU and the Merit Network build on MOON-Light’s fiber optic network, which is already present in 74 of the state’s 83 counties, Michigan Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II said, noting the connection established by Merit between local Internet networks, which then connects to consumers.
“We need to understand that not all internet access is created equal. Not everyone has the same experience with the internet…Using high-speed internet access as a tool, we can bring transformational change to our communities “said Gilchrist. . “As a state. We can grow our economy, improve health and education outcomes, connect families and small businesses to the global marketplace, and even reduce our state of Michigan’s overall carbon footprint.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist created the Connect Michigan Task Force and the Michigan Broadband Internet Office to coordinate investments in broadband Internet. The state also invested $28 million in the Connecting Michigan Communities grant program, which provided 19,000 homes and businesses with high-speed Internet access.
The Michigan Together Plan will also aim to connect thousands of families and businesses, as the plan received an investment of $250 million.
“Our MSU 2030 strategic plan builds on the past, including continuing to advance partnerships supporting economic development and improving the future workplace. Moonlight is a perfect example of how our heritage of serving our most remote communities informs our present and our future,” said MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr.. new opportunities for rural residents, including making life-enhancing information shared by organizations such as MSU Extension more available. It will also support other important activities, from precision agriculture to telemedicine…it could actually save the lives of people in these communities.
More than 380,000 Michigan residents do not have high-speed Internet access. Additionally, the state of Michigan is currently ranked 33rd in the nation in terms of connectivity. Therefore, the MOON-Light program is expected to reduce these critical infrastructure gaps while reducing the cost of commercial Internet Service Providers.
During the celebration, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow said the program will be a game-changer for Michigan communities.
“Broadband Internet is not a luxury, as we know, it’s a necessity…That’s why I’m so excited about the huge new broadband infrastructure program bound for Michigan,” she said.
Merit Network is an independent nonprofit, political technical organization, that connects more than 400 anchor institutions in Michigan with high-performance networking capabilities.
MOON-Light will provide service providers with high-performance transport to reduce costs and accelerate projects while providing those who do not have modern Internet service with this Internet service.
“Moonlight will propel Michigan to the top tier of states,” said Joseph Sawasky, president and CEO of Merit Network. “Ours will be one of the first open-access middle-of-the-road networks in the United States.”
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