Stimulus funding awarded for broadband service network in Cass County

Published 3:18 pm Thursday, February 11, 2010, as a member of the REACH-3MC consortium, has been awarded federal stimulus funding to build a 955-mile fiber-optic backbone network across Michigan. The fiber will cover 32 counties in Michigan, including Cass County. The network will expand broadband service to rural and underserved communities in Michigan.

Fiber optics is a communication technology that works by sending “light” signals down hair-thin strands of glass that is used to transmit data, video and voice at extremely high capacity. Telecommunication companies like ACD use fiber optics to deliver high-speed Internet, high-quality telephone lines and real-time video.

“All of the broadband, Internet, telephone, wireless, and private data used by the public, businesses and government eventually reach fiber optic networks,” said Kevin Schoen, president of “This deployment of a new state of the art fiber network will dramatically improve the ability for ACD to deploy high speed service in Michigan’s underserved communities.” provides wholesale services to other telecommunications firms, Internet and Web companies, schools and institutions as well as the general business and retail markets throughout Michigan.

The 955-mile backbone network will provide very high capacity services to aggregate
telecommunications traffic from various sectors, including healthcare providers, telecommunications, wireless services, fiber to the home, DSL, Wifi, T1 and T3 lines.
ACD has separately submitted final mile funding with the federal government to expand fiber-optic and wireless service directly to homes in Berrien, Cass, Hillsdale and Branch counties that are still pending with the federal government. Final mile refers to the connection that is needed to connect individual homes to the backbone network.
A recent study done by Michigan State University finds that widening the range of broadband benefits rural areas. The study notes the Internet and fiber is used by an increasing number of people for a widening array of purposes, including home-based businesses, home healthcare and online education, to name a few. The demand and reliance on broadband connectivity for a range of educational and other business-related purposes appears certain.

Merit Network is owned and operated by the public universities in Michigan, including Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. The total cost is roughly $41.6 million, with partners covering 20 percent. REACH-3MC Consortium will receive a federal grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to cover 80 percent of the project’s total cost.

Engineering will begin immediately, with groundbreaking for construction slated for mid to late 2010.