NMU Launches Educational Access Initiative

NMU's Gavin Leach discusses the EAN with (visible from left) Erickson and Steve VandenAvond of NMU, Nyberg, Kivela and Saunders.
NMU's Gavin Leach discusses the EAN with (visible from left) Erickson and Steve VandenAvond of NMU, Nyberg, Kivela and Saunders.Outdoor receiver, indoor receiver and mobile hot spot options for accessing NMU LTE
Outdoor receiver, indoor receiver and mobile hot spot options for accessing NMU LTE

Northern Michigan University is bridging the digital divide that continues to exist in the Upper Peninsula and beyond, where rural households either lack broadband entirely or the minimal speeds required for educational use. NMU’s Educational Access Network (EAN) merges the broadband coverage and speed of the university’s revolutionary LTE system with a growing array of courses for professional and personal development. NMU is also working with the region’s K-12 school districts and colleges to deliver broadband to students and their families.

NMU administrators, government officials and an educational partner discussed the EAN at a press conference Monday.

“I’ve been around higher education most of my life, and for years, people have talked about the problems brought on by the digital divide,” Erickson said. “The Internet is an important economic driver; so is education. We’re combining both by making educational broadband easy, accessible and affordable. We first had that ability with our former WiMAX system, but we thought maybe we should offer access to more folks. We developed our LTE and obtained a license from the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to provide across almost all of the Upper Peninsula. We have great partnerships, but anyone can join our classes and connect through our system.”

Marquette Area Public Schools became the first educational partner this fall. MAPS superintendent Bill Saunders said the timing was ideal with the district’s new one-on-one technology program, in which each student receives a Chromebook or iPad for educational use.

“One of the biggest concerns with that program was making it equitable for students, particularly the accessibility piece and asking them to do work outside the scope of the school day,” Saunders said. “This gives us a cost-effective plan we’re able to put in place and give students home access. And the school-of-choice students coming from outside Marquette are also able to participate at the same level as students from the city. Northern has long been a regional and national leader in technology—recognized by the highest office in the land—and we are most appreciative to be a partner in this effort.”

Through NMU’s newly created Global Campus, EAN access is included in tuition for students in associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Community members who take courses—from Understanding Online Personal Security to Customer Service Training—pay $34.95 per month for full access to the campus network at its top speed of 15mbps down/5 mbps up. K-12, college and university partners get full access to NMU LTE at school and home for $19.95 per month and have the option of upgrading speed for an additional $5 per month. Access for all requires a one-time purchase of an NMU LTE mobile hot spot, an indoor stationary receiver or a mountable outdoor receiver.

Dave Nyberg, director of the Northern Michigan Office of Gov. Rick Snyder, said there have been strides in recent years in creating a climate that enables businesses to grow, but gaps in connectivity remain.

“It’s important U.P. communities have the resources they need to provide a student pipeline that will meet the job demands in Michigan,” Nyberg added. “Students in rural communities don’t have the assets that others do. NMU is once again cementing its role and reputation as an institution at the cutting edge and forefront of bringing technology to students. It’s a great start for improving connectivity throughout the region.”

State Rep. John Kivela said his visit to the Superior Central School District about 18 months ago demonstrated the need for educational broadband in rural areas.

“They were talking about the challenges with curriculum requirements,” Kivela said. “With foreign languages, they rely on online classes to fill the void in instructors. But they couldn’t have more than 4-5 kids on the network at the same time without it going down. This initiative will fill a critical role. NMU is once again leading the country in technology.”

Per FCC guidelines, NMU LTE will be operational in six general service areas in the Upper Peninsula within two years. 

For more information, visit nmu.edu/EAN.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director