Northern Michigan University in Marquette has developed the Educational Access Network to provide affordable, wireless, LTE broadband internet access to the more than 310,000 residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
NMU created the nation’s first educational broadband network in 2008 to give students internet access both on- and off-campus. The EAN is expected to provide affordable broadband internet with an education focus for learners and families across the U.P by the time the project is complete in two years.
“We learned there was a critical need from municipalities and schools across the U.P. trying to create a similar model for their residents,” says Fritz Erickson, president of NMU. “We’re lucky to have some incredibly creative and dedicated people working for us, and they were committed to finding a way to replicate the internet service we successfully established in Marquette County. There are towns here with less than 100 residents, and just because they live in a small community does not mean they should be at an unfair disadvantage.”
To build its EAN, NMU needed access to the U.P.’s Educational Broadband Service Spectrum. The EBS Spectrum allows educators to tap into carrier-grade LTE equipment that is not only affordable and readily available, but compatible with existing consumer devices.
The Federal Communications Commission helped the school secure additional licenses to operate its network. With authorizations in hand, NMU worked with local municipalities and schools, trading use of its wireless network for space on their existing public infrastructure.
So far, more than 40 EAN partners have joined NMU in enabling service throughout the region and about half of the 90 transmitters required to serve the U.P. have been commissioned, according to the university.
Currently, more than 3,300 families in more than 50 previously underserved or unserved communities now have broadband internet.
“In an area where our options are limited, NMU’s Educational Access Network has provided an affordable, effective means to reliable, high-speed internet,” says Judy Trudell, supervisor of Rock Township in the U.P. “This is a huge win for our students and citizens that utilize EAN.”
When fully constructed, the EAN will provide educational broadband to more than 21,000 miles of U.P. rural communities, nearly 60,000 K-16 students and lifelong learners, over 40,000 K-12 students and six colleges and universities, and six Native American tribal communities.
The state of Michigan awarded NMU a $6.5 million loan from the Michigan Strategic Investment Fund to assist with the university’s accelerated, two-year construction schedule.
NMUs EAN ranges in price from $19.95 to $34.95 per month and is designed to get more people interested in continuing their education. Subscribers are required to complete at least one “nano” learning session each year and have unlimited network access to a variety of personal and professional online activities, enabling them to value the concept of lifelong learning.