Posted: Sep 17, 2013 7:53 PM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News
The head of one of the most influential Internet companies in the world believes Montana's has a "great decade" ahead, as long as business leaders take risks and work to foster education and entrepreneurship.
At the same time, making those goals happen depends upon connections to the outside world.
While there were a lot of speakers at the Montana Economic Development Summit to talk about about technology, there was one man who stepped on stage who knows more about deploying broadband than anyone else that was here.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt's appearance was one of the highlights for many at the Summit, giving people a chance to hear a bit of the philosophy that has turned the company into an Internet juggernaut.
Perhaps surprisingly, Schmidt started with a pessimistic wake up call, relating an economy where fewer Americans are employed and companies are investing more in capital than people, with globalization causing a continued slide in middle class jobs.
Still, Schmidt believes new firms are growing because risks are being taken, and the Internet is lowering barriers. However, in Montana the lack of broadband is still a big problem.
Three years ago Montana cities were in the thick of competition for Google's pilot fiber optic project. Today little has changed. And while he didn't come bearing broadband plans for the Big Sky, Schmidt says Google's lessons elsewhere could help here.
"We're doing this so we can create a competitive environment that we think, our competitors will also be able to use this technology," Schmidt said. "So we're trying to sort of move broadband forward. I think from the standpoint of here in Montana, there's in fact a far amount of fiber in Montana that's in place in various places. And I would figure out a way to get it lit. And I think that's a pretty high priority."
"And all of what I'm talking about - very good access to fiber, to the cities and then, as best 4G wireless access as you can possibly come up with," he said.
Schmidt believes that connectivity, combined with the right business climate, could help Montana thrive in the coming decade.
"Growth comes from small, fast growing companies. A lot of those can easily be in Montana," he said.