Crown Castle hired Staci Pies as its VP of government and regulatory affairs, a newly created position at the company. Pies, a high-profile player in telecommunications issues at the federal level, previously held Beltway lobbying positions at Google and Microsoft.
The move by Crown Castle signals the company's efforts to bolster its profile in the nation's capital, which is not surprisingly given Crown Castle's well-documented efforts to smooth out federal and state regulations hindering its deployment of new cell towers and small cells.
Indeed, Crown Castle hired Pies just weeks after the company said it now expects to build fewer small cells than it previously expected, mainly due to troubles getting the necessary permits from cities and utility companies.
In fact, the situation is critical enough that Crown Castle has begun filing lawsuits against some cities that it believes aren't moving fast enough to approve its small cell applications.
"With more than 20 years of experience providing strategic counsel on domestic and international technology, telecommunications and media, spectrum policy and social media issues, Staci brings invaluable expertise, particularly in this rapidly changing regulatory environment," Crown Castle wrote in a statement to Light Reading. "In her role, she will help develop and lead strategic efforts around Crown Castle's federal legislative and regulatory priorities as the company continues to build and maintain the infrastructure behind the world’s most revolutionary technologies."
Crown Castle did not elaborate on exactly what Pies would be working on in her new role at the company.
But Pies' move to Crown Castle comes at an important time for the cell tower and small cell provider. The nation's wireless network operators are taking their first tentative steps into the 5G marketplace, and the rollout of that technology could have major implications for everything from rural broadband to autonomous vehicles to cybersecurity. Thus, it's no surprise that the "race to 5G" between the US and China has received attention from policy makers stretching from the Pentagon to the White House.
For Crown Castle, 5G in the US likely will require the installation of thousands -- or possibly millions -- of new tower and small cell sites.
Pies, for her part, is likely well aware of those issues, given her resume. For the past five years she has worked as the senior public policy and government relations counsel for Google, where she "focused on driving the adoption of policies and regulations to promote broadband investment, adoption and innovation, including increased access to unlicensed and shared spectrum," according to Crown Castle. Before that she was director of government and regulatory affairs at Microsoft, having joined the company from its acquisition of Skype.
And, before joining Skype in 2008, Pies worked at PointOne and Level 3 Communications (now part of CenturyLink) after working at several positions within the FCC.