Partnership connects Michigan communities through expanded broadband service

Upper Peninsula residents benefitting from expanded service

Marenisco-area residents are receiving much-needed affordable broadband resulting from a partnership between Northern Michigan University (NMU) and Enbridge.

Through its Educational Access Network (EAN), Marquette-based NMU is expanding broadband access and resources to unserved and underserved areas in the Upper Peninsula. Launched in 2015, NMU’s EAN now provides educational broadband service to more than 7,100 households and continually is adding new areas, such as Marenisco, where community leaders asked for NMU’s assistance.

With a communication tower located in Marenisco, Enbridge became a natural partner to assist NMU in bridging the digital divide. Built to support Enbridge’s operations in the area, the tower now also provides space for NMU’s broadband equipment, enabling service to households within a nine-mile radius of the tower.

“Internet connection is an engine for educational empowerment, economic growth and social interaction,” says Marc Curry, Enbridge’s manager, region services for the Great Lakes region. “COVID-19 has only exacerbated the demand and need for broadband access. This small rural community, hit hard by the closure of the Ojibway Correctional Facility, has lacked adequate internet service. We are honored we could play a role in increasing connectivity, especially during such a crucial time.”

The Marenisco broadband project is not the first time NMU and Enbridge have worked together to expand internet access in the Upper Peninsula. In 2018, NMU mounted its broadband equipment on one of Enbridge’s towers in Manistique. This enabled approximately 116 residents to receive internet access, with recent placement of a larger antenna doubling the subscriber base.

“NMU appreciates its partnership with Enbridge and the use of these tower facilities is having on residents of local UP communities,” says Don Salo, EAN infrastructure director at NMU. “It has opened up the world for a lot of people.”