BOT finalizes $6.5 mil grant to expand EAN, matches $3.2

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Kelsii Kyto

The NMU Board of Trustees recently approved the final terms of a $6.5 million investment award agreement from the Michigan Strategic Fund that NMU applied for last April. The grant will allow for expansion of the newly-developed  Educational Access Network (EAN) to over 64 cities and townships in the Upper Peninsula over a span of two years.

NMU will contribute $3.2 million of its own to the expansion, and additionally they plan to give 35 percent of the proceeds from the network to the Michigan Strategic Fund to help pay back the investment over the course of 15 years, Vice President of Finance and Administration Gavin Leach said in the press release from April following the award. The townships and cities that were chosen for EAN development are based on population and infrastructure.

“Our partnerships with cities and townships across the U.P. have allowed us to place equipment on their water towers and other high structures. It’s a great example of universities and communities working collaboratively for the benefit of creating an educated citizenry through access to broadband. But in areas where high structures don’t already exist, we’ll have to build them, which adds to the cost. The right equipment in the right place is a critical aspect to building a strong, reliable network,” Leach said in the Campus Connect article.The EAN currently brings LTE broadband to more than 10 areas in the Upper Peninsula. NMU students have EAN costs included in their tuition, and the prices for access ranges from $19.95 for non-NMU students to $34.95 per month for the general public. Consumers can use the network to enroll in personal development courses as well as pursue an online degree.

In a Campus Connect article from April, NMU President Fritz Erickson said, “Northern’s Educational Access Network and building the NMU LTE across the Upper Peninsula over the next two years can be the national model for providing one of the most critical learning tools of the 21st Century to students—internet access—to rural America. Michigan and the U.P. can lead the way.”