Hosting Telecom Hotshots

Events like these are a giant undertaking

By Diane Smith

Who knew that Montana was such a hotbed of telecommunications goings-on that three of the five Federal Communications commissioners would visit us in the past few weeks? The five Federal Communications commissioners have power over just about every front page technology issue out there; from net neutrality to Wi-Fi to homeland security. In other words, they touch just about every gizmo we use daily.

That’s why it was exciting to see three commissioners in Montana this month. Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel attended an outstanding tele-health summit hosted by Kalispell Regional Medical Center. She was joined by other key officials from the Veterans Administration and the USDA. The summit explored telemedicine, remote imaging, emergency care and other high speed opportunities that can vastly increase patient outcomes. KRMC is a leader in tele-health and, along with their guests, they used this opportunity to better inform others and explore new solutions.

Republican commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly participated in Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines’ equally outstanding High-Tech Jobs Summit at Montana State University in Bozeman. Alongside an amazing lineup of speakers, the commissioners spoke enthusiastically about how technology has created new opportunities for entrepreneurship and business success in states like ours with an abundance of rural and small towns. They also met with entrepreneurs and small business leaders to exchange knowledge and ideas.

As a former D.C. telecom expert turned Montana tech entrepreneur, I know firsthand how challenging it is to get a high level federal official to attend an event, particularly one that’s not a quick flight or drive away. And because the tech sector is particularly sexy these days, FCC commissioners get invited to everything. Everything. That they agreed to come to Montana and spend some serious time here says a lot about the folks who invited them and their own personal willingness to share expertise and learn about our unique perspectives on technology delivery in a huge, low-density population state with some pretty intense needs.

Some people argue that trips like these are wasteful. I couldn’t disagree more. There’s nothing like having people with serious knowledge and ability visit a hospital in Kalispell or a university in Bozeman – both of which are doing a lot of the right things – to elevate our discussions about how to do even better. Events like these are a giant undertaking and KRMC and Daines deserve huge credit for making them happen.

It’s a great example of good people coming together for a noble cause. And, if rural and small towns are going to prosper, we need to keep hosting thought-leaders that can make a difference to our future. It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight, but events like these should remind us all that it’s doable and it’s important.

Disclosure notice – I was an attendee at the KRMC Summit and speaker at the High Tech Jobs Summit.