Mercury Broadband breaks ground on fiber project
NOTTAWA TWP. — A new internet provider in the area launched their effort to construct fiber optic internet in St. Joseph County Wednesday.
Kansas City-based internet and phone provider Mercury Broadband, which launched its expansion into Michigan back in May, held a groundbreaking ceremony near one of their towers on M-66 outside of Nottawa to celebrate the launch of an initiative to bring fiber internet services to rural areas of Michigan, including St. Joseph County.
According to a press release, Mercury is looking to construct over 5,000 route miles of fiber-optic internet in the state, and looks to serve more than 44,000 residential households and 6,000 business locations in the state as part of their initiative.
“This is huge. So many areas in Michigan are underserved, and we’re bringing them 1 gigabyte [per second speeds],” Robert Dow, general manager of Mercury in the Kalamazoo region, said. “It’s exciting.”
The fiber-optic internet project is part of Mercury’s $280 million investment to bring services into the state as a whole, consisting of $250 million in private investment and $30 million in federal funding. Dow said their overall goal is to bring internet service to underserved areas of the state.
“We were designed on providing internet, even out in the Kansas area, providing internet to people who can’t get it. This is just a continuation of our model,” Dow said.
So far, Dow said the response to Mercury in the area has been “exciting” so far, especially in Calhoun County, and said it was still new in St. Joseph County with them just turning on the towers. While he said he couldn’t see numbers by county, Dow said there are 300 pre-order tickets for service in his queue.
Dow estimated fiber service would be available throughout St. Joseph County by the end of August, with wireless internet service ready “within two weeks.”
“All our portion on the wireless side for all the towers, all the way down to Sturgis and White Pigeon, the towers we have are already built. We’re just waiting to turn up our fiber circuit,” Dow said. “This fiber build model goes all the way and touches Sturgis, it goes all the way over and touches Three Rivers, it goes all the way over and touches Colon, the whole Burr Oak, the whole Nottawa area. We’re building a good chunk of that.”
Many dignitaries were in attendance from Mercury Broadband, some of their partners, and some local governmental entities at the groundbreaking. Park Township Trustee Tom Springer, who has championed internet access for the township in the last year, said it was good to see Mercury come into the county.
“They are the first provider that’s really listened to us and is willing to service the need of a rural township that has a lot of people who need internet,” Springer said.
Springer said the township has had positive conversations with Mercury on service to the area.
“They’re willing to sit down with us and look at our population to see what our needs are and come back to us with a plan that addresses the big lack of coverage we have right now,” Springer said.
“With the other providers, we haven’t been able to make that breakthrough. I think they get it; they understand the fact this should be treated like a utility, and that access is really important for education, jobs and home values. I really like what I’ve heard so far.”
Overall, Dow said he’s hopeful for Mercury’s success in the county.
“My biggest hope is that everyone who needs internet can get it,” Dow said.