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State's Educational Network Negotiates Internet Upgrades for Rural Areas

The state’s educational network, MOREnet is expanding and that means more communities in Southwest Missouri will have faster high speed internet access. KSMU’s Missy Shelton reports.

The Missouri Research and Education Network or MOREnet was established in 1991 to provide the basic infrastructure needed to connect colleges and universities so they could share research. But it didn’t take long for MOREnet to expand its mission and there was an effort to bring internet connections to elementary and secondary schools and public libraries across Missouri.Annie Busch is former executive director of the Springfield-Greene County Library.

But that wasn’t always the case...Busch remembers the level of interest among state lawmakers when there was only limited internet access.

Even though most places have some level of high speed internet, the demand for faster, higher-capacity internet connections is growing. So, even if people have what’s called “high speed” internet access in their home, that doesn’t mean that there’s access to the level of high speed internet that many businesses need.Bill Mitchell is executive director of MOREnet. He says in MOREnets early days, he recognized that there was a need for high speed internet access in rural areas.

Mitchell says MOREnet leverages its buying power to bring to rural areas a special kind of high speed internet access, a kind that’s known for its capacity to move large amounts of data very quickly.In its latest project, MOREnet targeted 60 communities around the state where it wants better high speed connections for schools and libraries. MOREnet awarded the contract to AT&T. Mitchell says AT&T will upgrade its infrastructure to meet MOREnet’s needs and that will have a benefit for businesses in these rural areas.

Among the communities in Southwest Missouri that will see significant network upgrades thanks to MOREnet’s contract with AT&T are Walnut Grove, Pierce City, Monett, Neosho, Webb City, Carthage, Joplin and Carl’s Junction.Mitchell says MOREnet continues to look for opportunities to bring better, faster internet access to public schools across the state. He says that’s important because students and teachers are relying more and more on multi-media rich internet sites for learning activities. And while these expansions directly benefit classrooms, Mitchell says businesses and by extension, the entire community will benefit too.