High-speed internet is critical for economic vitality and education, yet many rural communities nationwide lack access. Northern Michigan University is helping to bridge the digital divide in the Upper Peninsula and potentially beyond through its innovative Educational Access Network. The EAN is available to any students taking NMU courses—whether they are on campus seeking a degree, at a partner high school offering dual enrollment or at home taking a class for continuing education, professional development or personal fulfillment.
“I believe this is transformative,” said NMU President Fritz Erickson at fall convocation. “We have found a way to solve the problem of bringing high-speed educational internet access to rural communities using an affordable subscription system. This will create new populations of students and create a true national identity and presence for us. We did a soft launch and it’s been very well-received. We expect to see it really take hold and develop.”
This is not the first time Northern has been a recognized leader in bringing educational broadband to surrounding communities. It was previously lauded by the White House as the first university to deploy its own WiMAX network. The EAN replaces the now-obsolete WiMAX. It uses long-term evolution (LTE) technology, the latest standard for mobile phones and other devices.
“The Federal Communications Commission is allowing Northern to expand its footprint to new service areas in the Upper Peninsula over the next two years,” said Derek Hall, assistant vice president of NMU Marketing and Communications. “Escanaba, Iron Mountain and Gogebic County will be next. We are also working with tribal communities, schools and community colleges throughout the U.P.”
Hall said Marquette Area Public Schools students issued a Chromebook who don’t have internet access at home will be able to sign up for Northern’s EAN for about $20 per month.
There are three pricing options for students taking NMU courses: the $199 standard package for six months’ access to courses on a third-party network; a $260 premium package for six months’ access to the EAN at home or on campus; and a $420 elite package for a full year of EAN access at home or on campus.
For more information, visit nmu.edu/ean.