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There was a crowd at Berkshire Hills Country Club for the first Berkshire Chamber of Commerce breakfast of 2013.

Berkshires Fiber Network Means Growth, Innovation

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Christa Proper of Cornerstone with PEDA Director Corydon Thurston after she spoke on the potential of high-speed broadband at Wednesday's chamber breakfast. Cornerstone's presentation can be seen here.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The future is fiber.

Not the kind in your food, but the optical cable that's connecting the commonwealth — and the world.

That was the message of David Wilming and Christa Proper of CornerStone, a provider of business communications, data storage and networking systems, to Berkshire Chamber of Commerce members at Wednesday's Good New Business Salute breakfast at Berkshire Hills Country Club.

High-speed access for data is becoming as necessary as phones and electricity for both personal and professional use, said Proper, executive vice president of business development.

"Unfortunately, the demand for broadband far exceeds the supply," said Proper, particularly for towns in and around Berkshire County that have for years been underserved or unserved. "Big data needs big broadband.

"Fiber networks have the speed, capacity and durability to take Massachusetts into the next century of telecommunications."

Some of that connecting is being done by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, which is expected to connect to some 1,200 community "anchors" and bring high-speed access to event the most rural areas by this August.

"The 1,300-mile network will provide the necessary broadband infrastructure to foster economic growth, improve health care and education and strengthen public safety," said Proper. The anchors are public but private businesses will be able to hook in through agreements with network operator Axia NGNetworks USA.

What it means is that cost for data will drop: for example, Proper said 100 megabit connections through Cornerstone would drop from $5,600 a month to $1,620 a month. Businesses of all sizes once limited by distance, availability and capacity will now be able to take advantage of lower-cost, high-speed networks.

Local business needs that access considering that just 10 years ago Internet communications were primarily emails, word processing, low-resolution graphics and simple presentations. Even smaller companies are making use of multimedia presentations, high-definition video, audio files and real-time Web pages — all elements that require high-capacity bandwidth.

"Quality is what's needed to make it all work correctly quality needs bandwidth," said Proper.

It's little like strolling off a backcountry road onto a superhighway, one that can bring economic growth and spark innovation.

Law firm Donovan & O'Connor was recognized for a century in business.

Proper pointed to Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski's call for all 50 states to create at least one gigabit community by 2015.

There are now 42 communities in 14 states served by ultra high-speed fiber networks, she said, including Chattanooga, Tenn., which attracted Volkswagen and thousands of jobs, and smaller Bristol, Va.

Bristol, a community of 17,000, has one of the most advanced networks with both private and municipally-owned systems established nearly 20 years ago. It's part of a fast-growing system in Virginia that's attracting big-name employers like Microsoft.

Proper said, for example, the medical field could use the access and data networks for better patient care by facilitating doctor to doctor connections (such as watching a surgery in real time), interacting with patients in their homes and using electronic medical records.

Wilming, president of software services, spoke on some of the issues of cloud computing, or networking, as offering businesses storage and management, security, information technology expertise and support, and low costs.

The 2012 cloud market in the United States is about $19 billion and growing, he said. "The global market will continue to grow at 28 percent compound growth through 2015 to a forecasted $95 billion."

But while storage in the cloud has its perks it isn't without risks, said Wilming, who cautioned business owners to ensure their providers could meet their needs now and in the future, and were secure, particularly with personal data.

Chamber Director of Programs & Events Christine Hoyt was surprised with a plaque from the Massachusetts Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives for her five years of 'distinguished service.'

Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy, the morning's emcee, reminded members of the new entrepreneurial program through Berkshire Enterprises and the college's employment training and asked in return that they consider internships — even at four or five hours a week — for students.

Salutes were given to:

Adelson & Company of Pittsfield for marking its 75th anniversary in providing accounting and auditing services for businesses large and small in the region, as well as estate and financial planning. Benjamin Wolfe formed the company in 1938 and Gordon J. Adelson joined in 1949. The firm merged to become Adelson Moynihan Kowalczyk PC in 2007 but this year has decided return to its "roots."

Donovan & O'Connor LLP for 100 years of legal services. Walter J. Donovan began his practice in 1913 and was joined by J. Norman O'Connor Sr. in 1954. The firm grew from a one-man office (its phone number in Adams for many years was "2") into a firm of nearly 20 attorneys focusing on family law, personal injury, estate planning, business representation and more with offices in North Adams, Pittsfield and Bennington, Vt.

UNICO of Pittsfield for its establishment 25 years ago by Judge Rudolph A. Sacco. Open to men and woman of Italian heritage and "good character," the nonpolitical and nonsectarian organization is the third largest chapter in the nation. With its mission of "service above self," the membership raises thousands of dollars for scholarships each year and assists in activities for groups ranging from the Brien Center to Relay for Life to the Pittsfield Fourth of July Parade.

Bob Heck Entertainment for its 2012 WeddingWire Awrd. Established by Heck four years ago after the birth of his daughter, it has been providing entertainment for weddings and for events sponsored by business leaders in the community, including General Dynamics and Greylock Federal Credit Union.

Tags: Berkshire Chamber of Commerce,   breakfast,   broadband,   

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