Donald J. Welch, Ph.D. is the President and CEO of Merit Network, Inc. Merit Network Inc., a non-profit corporation governed by Michigan's public universities, owns and operates America's longest-running regional research and education network. Since its formation, Merit Network has remained on the forefront of research and education networking expertise and services. Merit provides high-performance networking solutions to Michigan's public universities, colleges, K-12 organizations, libraries, state government, healthcare, and other non-profit organizations. Merit’s REACH Michigan Middle Mile Collaborative (REACH-3MC) project, which is funded by two Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grants, and will build over 2,287 miles of open-access, advanced fiber-optic network through rural and underserved communities in Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas. The network will provide backhaul to key interconnection points in Wisconsin and Minnesota. It also will provide new connections to over 120 community anchor institutions as well as faster and more robust service to hundreds more. Led by Merit Network, the project includes sub-recipients from the private sector to make broadband readily available to households and businesses that lack adequate service options in the 52 counties that make up the project service area. Don is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Maryland. He served in the Army for 25 years in both infantry and information technology assignments, achieving the rank of Colonel.