NMU expanding internet access across the U.P.

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University President Dr. Fritz Erickson and other university officials talked about the NMU Educational Access Network, or EAN, at a press conference Monday morning.

The EAN will allow students and others interested in pursuing educational opportunities to connect to a high-speed, wireless broadband service.

“Through the enrollment fees of people buying into the system will cover any cost of building out the overall system,” said Gavin Leach, NMU VP of Finance & Administration. “The big piece is we already have the main core in place and that core talks to all of these sights,” Leach added.

The internet service will run students $19.95 a month and community members $34.95 a month plus startup equipment. This will allow people interested in furthering their education internet access without breaking the bank.

“We want to make that affordable access to education and provide everybody an equal opportunity to have that access in an affordable way,” said Leach.

“People that do not have internet access, certainly internet access for educational purposes are at a real disadvantage,” said Erickson. “I’ve talked to a lot of middle school and high school teachers that want to assign homework to their students but they can’t because not everyone has internet access,” he added.

The service is also being offered to K-12 school districts across the U.P. Marquette Area Public Schools has been using the EAN since the new school year began.

“It’s been phenomenal. The outpouring of responses that we’ve had from our students and our staff, our teachers and others that don’t have access in places, this is really opening up doors for them, especially when you get into the winter season, we start thinking about weather and things like that. We want to be on the cutting edge. We want to be like those districts when we can even provide education on days like that,” said MAPS Superintendent Bill Saunders.

Officials expect the EAN to be fully operational in the next two years. President Erickson is optimistic that the system will be fully up and running even sooner than that.

“We expect to build this out quickly,” said Erickson. We’re working with the state right now on some unique opportunities to support that. If that happens, we’ll do it in months, not years.”