Northern Michigan University has been granted an Educational Broadband Service (EBS) license by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), according to NMU President Les Wong. The announcement came today (Oct. 9) in a ceremony in the new digital technology core of the Learning Resources Center. EBS is a type of wireless spectrum that supports high-speed Internet access using “WiMAX” technology.

            The license will allow NMU to better serve the university’s growing commuter and off-campus populations with broadband access to critical course related materials currently available to on-campus students, expand the collaborative efforts between area K-12 schools and NMU students fulfilling course requirements related to student teaching activities, and continue the development of new wireless services that are critical to the NMU’s Teaching, Learning and Communication (TLC) technology initiative.

Wong said, “Northern’s TLC technology program began with a bold decision to provide each student with a notebook computer. Building on that concept, our new EBS license takes Northern’s technology to a new plateau by expanding our wireless network in a way that will make handheld and notebook devices truly portable. WiMAX wireless technology is a global standard for cutting-edge technology that will help provide our students and faculty fast, reliable access to the future’s multi-media content and communication demands. It means much greater wireless penetration throughout the central portion of the Upper Peninsula.

“Although other schools and universities in the United States have access to EBS spectrum, to our knowledge NMU is among the few to use it to provide a WiMAX-based broadband network solely for education purposes. Reliable broadband Internet connections are not uniformly available in Marquette County, and NMU intends to use this new wireless broadband authorization to bridge the Internet service gap many students face.” 

Eric Smith, director of NMU broadcasting added, “The EBS license award is great news and is a good fit under NMU’s Roadmap to 2015 plan to use a variety of wireless services to distribute course-related content to students and the public. This new tool, coupled with NMU’s recent

investment in digital broadcasting technology, allows the university to serve remote students who want to pursue college-level coursework, but are unable to physically come to campus.” 

            Congressman Bart Stupak said the increased wireless penetration afforded by WiMAX will be valuable on two fronts: “It will not only enhance learning for NMU students; it will be very helpful from an emergency services perspective and the ability to keep more citizens informed. With Wi-Fi, the coverage is about 100 to 150 feet. With WiMAX, it’s miles.”

Also part of the announcement was a check presentation by Gene DeRossett, state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development of Michigan. The USDA’s Rural Development Program awarded WNMU Public TV a $633,231 federal digital television grant earlier in the fall to assist with the final steps in the digital conversion from analog television, which must be completed by February 2009.

“USDA Rural Development is proud to continue its partnership with Northern Michigan University. This additional funding will further increase WNMU's capabilities, which benefits viewers across the Upper Peninsula,” said DeRossett.

Prepared By
Director of Communications
October 9, 2008