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LEO Broadband Will Create Millions of Jobs

If the satellite broadband ISP business model pans out, SpaceX and the other ISPs, their suppliers, partners and organizations that serve three billion new users will create millions of jobs.

Earlier this month, Elon Musk tweeted an invitation to a job fair at the new SpaceX production and launch facility near Boca Chica, Texas. As shown here, the tweet says they want hard-working, trustworthy people with common sense. They are not looking for specific skills or education, but certain character traits—“the rest we can train.”

That tweet reminded me of hiring practices when I graduated from college. My first professional job was with IBM, but I had no experience with computers or unit-record (punch-card) data processing machines. They interviewed me, gave me an aptitude test, hired me, and then sent me to school to pick up the skills they needed. At the time, new hires at IBM were enrolled in a two-year, three-phase training program that alternated between classes and field experience. I don’t recall the details, but phase one was eight weeks of full-time training on IBM policy and culture and the programming of unit-record machines. We learned to program computers in phase two. IBM was not unusual—that sort of training was common in those days.

Postgraduate training programs were particularly necessary for industries that anticipated rapid growth—like electronic computers then and space launch and Internet service now. For example, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, IBM built the SAGE early-warning network. The Department of Defence spent approximately $8 billion on SAGE, which required IBM to hire and train 3,000 computer programmers, not to mention the people who designed, manufactured, installed, operated and maintained the system and the workers hired by IBM’s supply-chain companies. This was just one example of the demand for programmers, salespeople, support technicians, etc. hired and trained by IBM at that time.

SpaceX and its would-be competitors hope to bring broadband connectivity to the roughly 3 billion people who lack Internet access today, rural schools, clinics, markets and businesses, ships at sea, planes in the air, mobile-phone towers, high-speed arbitrage traders on Wall Street, cars, trains, buses, Internet of things sensors and appliances, governments, enterprises, space forces, etc. How long would that take and how many direct, supporting and supply chain jobs—technical and non-technical—would have to be created and filled? How many secondary jobs would be needed to serve a couple of billion new Internet users?

SpaceX can not do all of that alone. If the satellite broadband ISP business model pans out, SpaceX and the other ISPs, their suppliers, partners and organizations that serve three billion new users will create millions of jobs. Space and renewable energy may keep us employed for years.

By Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

He has been on the faculties of the University of Lund, Sweden and the University of Southern California, and worked for IBM and the System Development Corporation. Larry maintains a blog on Internet applications and implications at cis471.blogspot.com and follows Cuban Internet development at laredcubana.blogspot.com.

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