MSU, Daines host High Tech Jobs Summit

MSU and Senator Steve Daines hosted the first annual High Tech Jobs Summit at Jabs Hall and the SUB on Sunday and Monday. The summit provided a day and a half of panels and speakers addressing the importance of providing high tech jobs to the state and how government, academia and private sector companies can work together to further the availability of higher paying STEM jobs in the area and state.

Speakers from around the state and country praised both the pristine landscape of the state and the dedication of MSU to the technology and engineering fields. Daines helped setup and moderate the summit, which his staff said would be held every two years going forward.  MSU President Waded Cruzado opened the second day of the summit with a speech to employees and management of high tech companies in Bozeman and Montana, MSU students and faculty, and community members came to see individual speakers by their professors.

The summit included many prominent speakers from industry including local RightNow Technologies founder Greg Gianforte, Deputy Administrator of NASA Dr. Dava Newman, Retired CEO of Intel Corp. Craig Barrett, and two of the five current U.S. Federal Communications Commission members, Michael O’Reilly and Ajit Pai.  

In the panel with the FCC commissioners, topics ranged from the changing role of government and regulation of the technology sector to ways to make broadband internet more available in rural areas of Montana and the rest of the country, as well as efforts by the current commissioners to enact “net neutrality” rules. Commissioner O’Reilly spoke about some of the challenges of bringing internet access in rural areas where some residents oppose erecting of cell towers and government intervention of local economies.

Comissioner Pai said “One of our challenges is showing the value of wireless internet based jobs to these small communities, and find ways that the FCC can make these transitions easier.” Both men also voiced strong opposition to current plans for the FCC to take further control of the Internet when asked by Daines about the topic of net neutrality.

One thing that surprised Pai was also the amount of time it took to bring development to federally controlled areas versus privately controlled areas: “When it takes, on average, two years to get internet available in privately controlled areas and four years to make it available in government controlled areas, we should look for ways for the FCC to streamline that.”

Later Monday afternoon representatives from companies ranging from Charter Communications to the National Association of Broadcasters talked about the continuing need to free up portions of the current wireless spectrum to make way for future technologies.  Peter Davidson of Verizon said that while current 4G technology is faster than previous technologies, it is already five years old.  “In order to compete with Asian markets we need the government to bring more of the spectrum to industry for consumer benefit,” said Davidson.  Attendees estimated that the next generation of wireless technology would be up to 50 times faster than current 4G systems.

One familiar speaker to the university is Jake Jabs, who’s $25 million donation resulted in the eponymous Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship opening this past May after two years of campus construction.  Jabs was included as part of a panel on the importance of investment in future technologies and encouraging entrepreneurship in the business and technology communities.