Gigabit speed internet service is coming to northeastern Michigan due to a community broadband expansion effort by Presque Isle Electric and Gas Co-op based in Presque Isle County, in partnership with Merit Network based in Ann Arbor.
The cooperative intends to launch a multiyear phased fiber-to-home (FTTH) network projects, providing access to internet and voice services to more than 30,000 homes and business across its northeast Michigan territory, including Alpena, Cheboygan, Montmorency, Presque Isle, and portions of Alcona, Emmet, Mackinac, Oscoda, and Ostego counties.
The fiber system will be installed over PIE&G’s existing electric distribution infrastructure and will connect to Merit Network’s existing high-performance middle-mile fiber optic infrastructure to deliver service. Merit was recently awarded a 5-year contract to provide 10 Gbps backhaul service to power the network.
This network expansion is being funded through an $11 million grant award from the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF). Work on the expansion has already begun and is expected to be complete in 2026.
“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,” says Charlotte Bewersdorff, vice president for engagement at Merit Network.
Some anticipated benefits of the broadband service 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.
“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,” says Tom Sobeck, CEO of PIE&G. “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.”