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James Q. Crowe, Telecommunications Pioneer, Dies at 74
[July 07, 2023]

James Q. Crowe, Telecommunications Pioneer, Dies at 74

SHERIDAN, Colo., July 7, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- JQ Crowe Company announced that James Q. Crowe, a technology and telecommunications visionary who spearheaded the fiber optic telecommunications revolution, died July 2nd in Paradise Valley, Arizona, after a battle with pulmonary arterial hypertension. In the 1990's, when web pages opened slowly and streaming video over the Internet was not viewed as realistic, Crowe hatched a vision of cheaper bandwidth that would enable video streaming and the robust Internet experience we enjoy today. And he made that vision a reality.

As people began to use the Internet, via modems using traditional telephone lines, Jim Crowe saw that the demand for information could be explosive, but data speeds were so low that the experience was limited. At the same time, new fiber optic technologies and Internet protocols made vast cost reductions possible, but only if demand were high enough to justify the needed investment. Crowe saw an opportunity. Rather than have data move over traditional telephone networks, he envisioned voice, data and video moving over a revolutionary new kind of network using fiber optic and Internet technologies. "A network for the eyes rather than for the ears" was how Crowe described it.

Crowe formed Level 3 Communications in 1997 with exactly this vision. Together with his parent company, Omaha-based construction giant Peter Kiewit Sons', and Kiewit Chairman and Crowe mentor Walter Scott, Crowe raised $15 billion to construct a totally new network based upon the newest technologies and optimized for the Internet. They dug trenches and buried multiple conduits to carry optical fibers across the United States and parts of Canada, digging 16,000 miles along streets and railroads, installing electrical and optical equipment all along the path. They also built a similar network across Western Europe. Level 3 brought bandwidth costs low enough to stimulate explosive growth in the Internet. Early Level 3 customers such as Facebook and Netflix, among many others, took advantage of these lower costs to create the rich Internet experience the public knows today.

James Quell Crowe was born July 2, 1949, at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base to the highly decorated Marine Colonel Henry Pierson Crowe and Mona Quell Crowe. Living in nearby Coronado, California, unti 1957, his parents moved him and his two brothers and three sisters to Portsmouth, Virginia, where he lived until leaving for college. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Pepperdine University.

Mr. Crowe spent the first part of his career in the engineering and construction industry, specializing in the design and construction of electric power facilities, including both conventional and nuclear power plants. In 1986 he was recruited by Peter Kiewit Sons'. His group's construction work laying optical fiber underground for clients led Crowe to propose, then lead, Kiewit's push into fiber optic telecommunications. Crowe launched MFS Communications, the first company to bring robust local competition to the Baby Bells via fiber optic communication technology. He took MFS public in 1993 and built it rapidly into a Fortune 500 company, before it was acquired by WorldCom in 1996 for $14.3 billion.

A year later, Crowe founded Level 3. He was joined by a number of executives and engineers who had worked with him at MFS. His vision and generous nature attracted a loyal following, including but not limited to former MFS employees. American industry has many former Level 3 executives in leadership positions, virtually all of whom regard Jim Crowe as a major figure in their lives.

Under Crowe's leadership, Level 3 Communications grew to become a Fortune 500 company with a global network serving 50 countries. The Smithsonian Institution recognized Level 3 in a large public ceremony for its role in harnessing new Internet technologies to change telecommunications, stating: "Your achievement will inspire others to pioneer, and will provide a record for future generations that wish to understand how information technology changed our world." 

In addition to his Level 3 roles, Mr. Crowe served on the boards of several companies including RCN Corporation, Commonwealth Telephone Enterprises and Quest Communications International. In 2010, President Barack Obama named Mr. Crowe as Chairman of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, a group of industry executives from major telecommunications, information technology, finance and aerospace companies that provided critical industry-based analysis and advice to the President on policy and technical issues regarding national security and emergency preparedness communications. 

Crowe was very active in local and national politics, often hosting political events and fund raisers at his Denver home with his wife, Pam. President Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama and then Vice President Joe Biden were among the many prominent politicians he hosted and counseled.

"Ever since James Crowe brought Level 3 Communications and thousands of jobs to Colorado a quarter century ago, Jim has been an admired and active business leader among our major employers," said Colorado Governor Jared Polis. "Both my predecessors, former Governors Ritter and Hickenlooper, and I have called upon James Crowe for his creative and trusted advice on issues ranging from healthcare, technology, education and transportation to Covid response. He was a giant, and all of Colorado will miss his contributions to our civic life."

Jim Crowe and his wife, Pam, were well known as philanthropists. Each year they hosted at their Denver home a large fundraiser for the Anchor Center for Blind Children. He also served on the board of trustees and chaired the Finance Committee of Denver Health, which serves a large percentage of Denver residents, including the disadvantaged.

Despite his busy travel schedule, Jim treasured most his time with Pam, his wife of 37 years, and his children and grandchildren. After his retirement from Level 3, Jim and Pam moved to Arizona but maintained a home in Denver, as they had children and grandchildren in both places. Throughout much of his life, Jim was an avid outdoorsman, enjoying skiing, hiking and technical climbing in the Colorado Rockies.

Mr. Crowe is survived by his wife Pam; son James Crowe and wife Brittany and children James, Taylor and Carter; son Sterling Crowe and wife Kristi and children Annalee and Alexandra; daughter Angie Barako and husband Tom and children Isabelle, Kamryn and Aubrey; Sister Gretchen Ward; brother Joel Crowe and wife Jenni; sister Mona Sheperty; sister Mary Jenkins and husband Cecil; and brother Jon Crowe and wife Monica.

The family plans a private funeral and asks that everyone respect their privacy. They plan to hold a memorial service later this summer.  In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Jim's honor be made to the Anchor Center for Blind Children, Attn: Savannah Wippel, 2550 Roslyn Street, Denver, CO 80238.

Media Contact:
Carolann Samuels


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SOURCE JQ Crowe Company

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