$10.5MM Federal Grant Awarded to MSU and Merit Network to Deliver Statewide Broadband Infrastructure

Project to create Michigan Open Optical Network – Leveraging Innovation to Get High-Speed Technology (MOON-Light)

East Lansing, Mich., June 27, 2022 – Merit Network and Michigan State University are joint recipients of a $10.5 million National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program Grant that will connect Michigan’s many disparate Internet pathways.

This program, named the Michigan Open Optical Network – Leveraging Innovation to Get High-Speed Technology (MOON-Light), will help address critical infrastructure gaps by enabling technologically advanced, middle-mile fiber optic infrastructure across the state. It will allow interconnecting local Internet service providers (ISPs) to bring affordable, robust, high-speed broadband Internet to homes and businesses in Michigan’s underserved/unserved population areas.

“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, Merit Network. “We are privileged to partner with Michigan State University and the MSU Quello Center on this initiative that is one of the first-of-its-kind in the nation. With non-profit and cooperative organizations working together with commercial ISPs, we are uniquely positioned to reduce costs and accelerate broadband projects for Michigan in model public-private partnerships. This project sets a strategic digital foundation for Michigan and will create a statewide ‘digital autobahn’. Our goal is to actually #FixTheDamnInternet for citizens and learners. We are incredibly thankful for the continuing trust that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has placed in our vision.”

“Closing the digital divide is essential to the future success of our state and our young people,” said MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “When we partner together to solve our state’s most pressing challenges, we create a place that is full of opportunity – for all people and businesses. This partnership is a prime example of that and MSU is proud to play a role in this effort to connect Michigan.”

Letters of intent from several ISPs including Highline, Barger Creek and Northern Michigan University have already been signed to further the public-private collaboration of MOON-Light.

This project leverages funding from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP), one of the earliest of the recent infrastructure programs. BIP was a precursor to theInfrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed into law by President Biden on November 15, 2021.

As the State of Michigan continues to prepare for federally funded broadband investments, MSU and Merit proactively and independently applied for the NTIA grant to move things ahead faster. [Read the full announcement at Merit | News]