Ga. company to use Merit fiber to bring high speed internet to the UP

ANN ARBOR–A Georgia company has announced plans to offer high-speed gigabit internet service across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Highline Internet, a trademark of West Point, Ga.-based ITC Broadband Operating LLC, will use the backbone of the Ann Arbor-based academic and governmental internet service provider Merit Network Inc. to provide its service.

Merit offers high-speed internet backbones of between 1 and 10 gigabits per second across the Upper Peninsula that mostly follow the UP’s major highways, such as I-75, US-2, US-41, US-45, and M-28.

Highline officials say they are building a fiber-to-the-home network of more than 6,000 miles in the UP, using federal Rural Digital Opportunities Fund money to deliver real high speed Internet access for tens of thousands of Michigan residents. Engineering and construction work is under way. Highline officials say they will begin providing service to customers by the end of this year at speeds of 1 gigabit download and 500 megabit upload.

Highline officials didn’t respond to a phone call asking exactly where the new services would be offered or what prices would be.

The UP’s low population density and rugged geography have long created a disparity in access to Internet connectivity, with some areas having no access to high-speed service and some areas having only wireless service.

Bruce Moore, president and general manager of Highline Michigan, said in a news release: “Highline Internet is committed to putting the Upper Peninsula first in bringing the power of reliable, high-speed fiber Internet to households currently unserved, underserved and unhappily served across the region, enabling our future customers to thrive with a real Internet.”

In the same release, Joe Sawasky, president and CEO of Merit Network, said: “Considering that hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents still lack access to basic broadband service, this collaboration with Highline Internet using our open access dark fiber and dark wave services represents a crucial next step in our common goal to facilitate equal fiber broadband Internet access to everyone in need, regardless of geographic location.”

Merit Network is an independent nonprofit corporation governed by Michigan’s public universities. It was founded in 1966 by Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University, with the purpose of connecting the universities’ mainfrane computers–a feat that was finally accomplished in 1971. Today’s Merit provides high-performance connectivity to universities, K-12 schools, libraries, health care institutions, and other nonprofit entities in Michigan and beyond.

ITC is the successor to the West Point Telephone and Electric Co., founded in 1896. The company changed its name to Interstate Telephone Co. in the 1950s, and has been involved in several successful telecommunications ventures since. It is not related to Novi-based ITC Holdings, one of the nation’s largest owners and managers of the electric power grid.

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