Lav Gupta part of UM System team working to bring high-speed internet to rural communities
Lav Gupta, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, has been a key participant in the University of Missouri System Broadband Initiative, working with others across the system to encourage the statewide build-out of reliable, high-speed internet infrastructure. He discussed those efforts with UMSL Magazine.
Why is this technology so important?
Today, you cannot think of the quality of life that people deserve without broadband. There are so many great uses, and it could be, in some ways, necessary for survival. Rural areas depend on agriculture, and agriculture has become very precise and data oriented. You need broadband to know when to sow seeds or what kind of seeds, manure, fertilizers … You’re talking about moving terabytes of data. Rural hospitals are also under stress and could be at risk of closing if they don’t have broadband to run telemedicine.
What was your experience working on broadband before you got your PhD and went into academia?
I was in the corporate office of the largest ISP and telecom company in Delhi, and there was no broadband at that time in India – no ADSL and no broadband, and the cable network was not as big as what we traditionally have in the U.S. I was put in charge of the broadband project for India, planning and deploying broadband for initially about 200 cities and then expanded to hundreds of additional cities and rural areas, villages. We built a complete backbone network with high-speed routers and fiber-optic cables connecting them and an access network with ADSL variants. I chose ADSL because I was familiar with it, and I thought it was the best technology at that time for the country.
What made you want to work on the Broadband Initiative?
I wanted to make use of my experience. There were other very enlightened, knowledgeable people in the group from different areas, including law, but they wanted a technical person, and I filled that slot very well. It’s very exciting work. We did a webinar over the summer of 2020 with a focus on bringing high-speed broadband to Bollinger County. We’re doing similar work for other counties. I’ll be very happy the day we are able to make this happen. There are a lot of stumbling blocks, like funding and who should be roped in for providing it. Who would do the actual deployment – should it be electrical cooperatives or municipalities? It’s all so complicated. We’re trying to straighten that out by preparing a broadband planning guide for community members as they work to enhance and expand broadband connectivity in their areas.
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