Viewpoint: Bill Elder, Director, The Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis, University of Missouri-Columbia

Originally published in MOREnetworking Vol. 2 No. 8, Jan. 2007

MOREnet, The Missouri Research and Education Network, is an organizational unit of the University of Missouri and functions as a consortium. Through MOREnet, nearly a thousand Missouri public institutions receive Internet connectivity, videoconferencing, technical support and training. Among consortium members are Missouri’s school districts, colleges and universities, public libraries, health care units, state government and other affiliated public organizations. They are part of a shared network where all members are included and derive benefit.

With respect to Internet connectivity, MOREnet is not an Internet Service Provider. It owns no phone lines. Instead, MOREnet aggregates the demand for services from its nearly thousand members and negotiates multi-year agreements with private companies for the use of telecommunication services. Like hospitals and other organizations that often join together to lower costs by buying in bulk, MOREnet is able to leverage savings by buying network services for many users as a package. Also, by establishing network standards, consortium member applications run smoothly. MOREnet’s network is secure, reliable and robust, and it needs to be. At the other end of its connections are not solitary users, but networks supporting entire university, school, library and telemedicine communities with tens of thousands of users doing serious work.

Through MOREnet, members are part of a public telecommunications network. The MOREnet network is a net “public good.” At present, there is no private alternative to MOREnet that is a better net value for Missouri tax payers. The Missouri General Assembly has recognized this for years and provides direct appropriations for MOREnet to carry out its core functions.

Robust, networked Internet connectivity is an essential service for MOREnet members and the state. Public education, higher education, libraries and many aspects of health care are core functions of government. Secure, reliable and robust Internet connectivity is integral to how these institutions function. Networked information technology has transformed learning and patient care. Today, for these institutions, being without robust connectivity is like being without electricity. Robust networked Internet technology is essential to the future competitiveness of our learners and the well-being of patients.

Telecommunication services are complex and changing. New services are being developed and features are converging in new devices and in new ways. Private providers are consolidating and a range of services are sometimes bundled and marketed together. These trends demand the ongoing attention of those charged with public responsibilities for current and future public network services. For now, with respect to robust Internet connectivity for public institutions, the best value for tax payers is in volume purchase arrangements and cooperative networks like MOREnet.

Bill Elder
Director, The Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis
University of Missouri-Columbia

hendersonl | Monday, January 1, 2007 | |


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