When a buddy of Russ Elliott‘s asked if he’d join him in starting a telecom company, he flat out said no. While his friend had been a great help building a website he needed, the venture didn’t have any financial backing and Elliott wasn’t versed in internet connectivity.
But when his friend took the unusual step of sending him a motivational postcard — something with an iceberg and a corny message about not knowing what’s out there unless you took a risk — it played on his mind. Elliott had an MBA. He had drive. He decided to embrace the inspirational cliché.
With that, some 20 years ago Elliott helped launch what became a successful business in Colorado called Brainstorm Internet, serving as its president for 13 years.
“We were nimble and quick and had smart people on our team and started DSL in our area,” Elliott said. They applied scrappy, creative solutions to deliver connectivity to rural areas in parts of Colorado and New Mexico.
It certainly is a moonshot, but it is not unattainable.
There were other ventures mixed in, but the job with Brainstorm Internet wound up prepping him for his current role as the first director of the recently created Washington State Broadband Office, an organization within the state’s Department of Commerce. Elliott has the challenge of providing high-speed internet connectivity — 150 megabits per second for both downloading and uploading data — to all residents and businesses in the state by 2028.
“That really does set us on a different path. It is the most aggressive goal in the country today,” Elliott said. “It certainly is a moonshot, but it is not unattainable.”
He estimates that half of Washington’s population currently lacks fast,