ANN ARBOR—Gigabit speed internet service will soon be available in Northeastern Michigan, thanks to an ambitious community broadband expansion effort by Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op (PIE&G).
The cooperative intends to launch a multiyear phased fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network project, providing access to internet and voice services to 30,000-plus homes and businesses across its northeast Michigan territory. This includes Alpena, Cheboygan, Montmorency and Presque Isle counties, as well as portions of Alcona, Emmet, Mackinac, Oscoda and Otsego counties.
The fiber system will be installed over PIE&G’s existing electric distribution infrastructure and will deliver reliable, high-speed Internet access directly to homes and businesses. The project to expand services has already begun and will be completed in 2026.
This network expansion is being funded through an $11 million grant award from the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF). PIE&G’s FTTH expansion will deliver service by leveraging and connecting to Merit Network’s existing high performance middle-mile fiber optic infrastructure. Merit was recently awarded a 5-year contract to provide 10 Gbps backhaul service to power the network.
Broadband availability across Northeastern Michigan will help close the digital divide between those who have access to advanced technology and those who don’t. Some anticipated benefits include online learning capabilities, opportunities to participate in telemedicine, work from home, enhanced personal communications and the potential for economic growth and development in rural areas.
According to PIE&G’s CEO, Tom Sobeck, “Our new fiber division will bring to our members a modern future that’s still firmly rooted in what makes our cooperative and rural service territory unique. We made history bringing electricity and ‘lights’ to local farmers and small towns of rural northeast Michigan in 1937, and natural gas in 1994, and we’re doing it again with fiber.”
“Through leveraging the RDOF program successfully, PIE&G is making great strides for the communities they serve. Connecting affordable and robust middle-mile infrastructure to last mile networks is a critical component in executing Merit’s statewide goal to bring equal and affordable fiber broadband Internet access to everyone in need – regardless of where they live,” said Charlotte Bewersdorff, vice president for engagement at Merit Network.
To learn more about the PIE&G’s proposed project, visit https://www.pieg.com/fiber-construction-timeline/ .
Merit Network Inc. is an independent nonprofit corporation governed by Michigan’s public universities. Merit owns and operates America’s longest-running regional research and education network. In 1966, Michigan’s public universities created Merit as a shared resource to help meet their common need for networking assistance. Since its formation, Merit Network has remained at the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking and IT solutions to Michigan’s public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations. For more information: www.merit.edu.
PIE&G provides energy services to about 30,800 members across nine counties in northeast Michigan. With its headquarters in Onaway, PIE&G is one of the largest employers in Presque Isle County, with 94 full-time and several more temporary employees servicing approximately 33,800 electric meters and 12,400 natural gas meters. The co-op maintains 4,909 miles of electric lines (consisting of 3,841 miles overhead and 1,068 miles underground) and 568 miles of natural gas pipeline. The cooperative was founded on the premise of providing outstanding essential services to rural areas when other companies refused to serve, a premise it continues to uphold and strives to improve upon today.