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Opinion: COVID-19 proves need for high-speed broadband

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If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that disruption drives innovation, ingenuity and evolution.

This past year has presented abundant challenges, but as we look at 2021, we can see how these moments of difficulty have shaped us. While we remain mindful of the tolls this past year has taken on many of us, we also search for the ways in which we can respond to the new circumstances so that we may move forward together.

This past year, families and communities have found more opportunities to stay in touch virtually.

Students and teachers have found ways to help education persist despite a fundamental change to the classroom environment. Businesses have adopted remote work strategies on an unprecedented scale. Devices and systems have increasingly connected with each other on the Internet of Things, and technology has embedded itself at the core of our collective transformation, serving as a force of vital connection and continuity.

According to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, less than a year ago, almost 20% of Missourians, more than 1.2 million, did not have access to high-speed internet. Now, add the demands that COVID-19 has had on existing broadband networks and the pace of need is only accelerating.

To solve this issue, data center and network companies are needing to forge a path forward by expanding their networks and communications capabilities to ensure everyone can take advantage of today’s virtual world.

It’s not enough to just bring broadband to the many homes and communities without it. The critical services that will be empowered by 5G require many points of fiber connection to the numerous small antennas that will be necessary to deliver 5G.

We view the densification of broadband, especially in underserved communities and cities, as both a business and social necessity. While our businesses and families may be rooted in Springfield, it is clearer than ever we are living and competing in a global landscape. One of the most important items in our competitive arsenal is bandwidth delivered securely over fiber.

There has certainly been much discussion of digital transformation. For many businesses, schools, hospitals and even remote workers, this seems like a distant or expensive undertaking. But whether we are prepared or not, it is already happening, greatly accelerated by the need for connectivity necessary to continue business and life during the pandemic.

Digital transformation includes making cloud applications that connect schools, hospitals and clinics accessible. For health care, it’s about connecting regional hospitals with their outlying clinics. For education, it’s about allowing schools to create virtual classrooms that can deliver a rich and meaningful student experience.

It is important to understand what your community needs. We see that businesses in 2021 have to consider secure, high-speed bandwidth as a minimal investment this year.

Broadband companies are working to deliver the necessary infrastructure and densification, both through data centers and fiber, to give Missouri businesses and communities the necessary access to empower the Springfield region to thrive over this coming year.

Michael Morey is CEO of Bluebird Network, a Columbia-based communications infrastructure provider and data center operator. He can be reached at michael.morey@bluebirdnetwork.com.

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