New Project

Bozeman, where I live, sub­mit­ted its appli­ca­tion for the Google Fiber for Communities project in the hopes of using the giga­bit fiber to bring more high-tech busi­nesses to the city.

Already, the city is rife with high-tech indus­try, the most famous com­pany being Right Now Technologies. We also have TechRanch and a num­ber of Montana State University–fueled startup incu­ba­tors and spin­offs. (The uni­ver­sity has done quite well for itself in the area of tech transfer.)

Now the city wants to bring more high-tech busi­nesses to the area in hopes of increas­ing tax rev­enue and stop­ping the so-called “brain drain” that sees many of the state’s col­lege grad­u­ates leave Montana for higher pay­ing jobs else­where. It doesn’t hurt that there’s this sometimes-referred-to notion that Bozeman is the next Silicon Valley.

While all this boom hype is going on, there’s another side to the high-tech world. We live in a rural place, one with moun­tains and other harsh ter­rain that makes it hard for peo­ple to get access to broad­band Internet access. Sure, researchers like Richard Wolff at MSU, who I pro­filed for the upcom­ing Mountains & Minds mag­a­zine, are look­ing into ways to use advanced wire­less tech­nolo­gies to get broad­band across that “last mile” and to rural homes, many peo­ple in the state remain on dial-up or with­out Internet access of any kind.

Amid all the excite­ment over high-speed and high-tech, what about the peo­ple who don’t have access?

I hope to answer that ques­tion over the next few months as I research and report on what I hope will turn into a series for the Chronicle. We’ll have to see how it goes. Maybe I’m imag­ing things. Maybe there is no prob­lem at all, and every­thing is hunky-dory.

In the mean­time, I’m blog­ging about what I find over at Broadband in Montana. Read up and please com­ment. I’d love to be pointed to resources I don’t know about.