Anybody gonna miss Qwest?

You’d think it might make a bigger local headline, but buried somewhere in the business section on the Seattle Times website home page is news that Qwest is being acquired by CenturyTel in a $10.6 billion stock swap combining the nation’s third and fifth largest landline companies respectively. (The New York Times by comparison, currently has the headline front and center on their home page, just below the top story.)

Why is this such big news? Well, first of all, combined with the recent acquisition of Verizon’s local landline business by Frontier, just about all of the landlines in Washington state will have changed corporate hands, along with a large chunk of residential and business broadband connections. The merger will also surely result in numerous layoffs in Washington and throughout Qwest’s mostly Western territory, as the two companies consolidate operations.

Second of all: CenturyTel Field. Get used to it.

The landline business has been shrinking for years as residential customers shed their home phone lines in favor of wireless, and cable companies like Comcast have eaten into what should have been a dominant position in broadband. But Qwest has never made the investment in high-speed broadband infrastructure necessary to keep customers in the fold, and so they’ve paid the price as they’ve watched their market steadily wither.

I’m one of those Qwest CenturyTel customers the merged company risks losing. I’ve never subscribed to cable, so can’t be tempted by a Comcast bundle, and live only a few blocks from a switch, so I receive advertised broadband speeds via distance-sensitive DSL. But Clearwire is installing a tower a block away, promising fast, reliable wireless broadband, so with three broadband providers offering apples to apples service, I’m willing to shop around on price.

When I moved into my house 13 years ago we had three land lines installed (home, business and fax) plus ISDN. Now I have one basic landline — no extra features, no voicemail, no nothing — plus DSL. In fact, the only reason I keep the landline at all is the desire to have reliable 911 service in a house with a child.

The irony is, the residential phone companies like US West Qwest CenturyTel were in the perfect position to dominate broadband at he birth of the Internet age, but refused to make the kind of infrastructure investments that have allowed much of the rest of the world to leapfrog the U.S. in broadband speed. While the average Japanese consumer enjoys speeds in excess of 60 mbps, most of us out here in Microsoftland are still dreaming about joining the French in the 20 mbps range.

And I’m not sure the Qwest/CenturyTel merger signals anything except the intent to continue milking their existing customers for as long as they can, even as we flee to newer, cheaper, and hopefully faster technologies.

Comments

  1. 1

    ArtFart spews:

    Goldy,

    If you’re like me, you have to be wondering (or assuming the worst) about what this does to the pledge Qwest made a couple years back to DSL customers who committed to a few bucks more for somewhat faster speeds, to freeze the rates we pay for as long as we drew breath. Likewise Qwest’s apparent commitment to continue accommodating CLEC’s (third-party backend providers) after the FCC rule requiring local phone companies to do so had expired.

    Meanwhile, over the years, the CLEC I use has changed hands several times–originally a local outfit called “OZnet”, it merged with an Arizona-based company named “The River”, which was then purchased by Nationwide Internet. Two years ago Nationwide sold the privilege of servicing its customers in the Northwest and Arizona to a Virgina-based firm called Sitestar.

  2. 2

    spews:

    For whatever it’s worth, I’ve been using Qwest’s DSL service and have been happy enough. It will be interesting to see it that continues to be the case..

  3. 3

    Zotz spews:

    I’m set up just like you, Goldy (basic Qwest LL and DSL). It was wonderful to have DSL when it arrived to my remote corner as I live far from anything cable could economically provide.

    I will miss Qwest. They were the only company that stood up to BushCo when they demanded the telcoms allow access to spy on Americans. Their customer service is excellent and you can talk to a real live American human whenever you have a problem.

    One other thing: mergers always mean customers get screwed, either the network and service will steadily deteriorate or we get charged thru the nose or both.

  4. 4

    Blue John spews:

    Yes. I will miss Qwest
    Like Zotz, I admired Qwest because they were the only company that stood up to BushCo when they demanded the telcoms allow access to spy on Americans.
    I tried to get DSL with them at the new apartment, but it was unavailable in my area of Seattle. For what ever reasons, they failed to be competitive and offer the services I needed.

  5. 5

    rhp6033 spews:

    I’ve got Verizon up where I live. Every month we’ve had the discussion about whether to drop the home land line. It does serve the purpose of allowing us to make or receive calls even if the cell phone battery is dead, or if we just want to get hold of SOMEONE at home, even if we don’t know who’s really there. But it’s hardly worth the almost $40.00 per month they now charge, with taxes, for basic service + unlisted number fee. I’ve tried to get them to reduce it, but they just shrugged and said that’s the lowest plan they offer.

    I’ll give Frontier Communications one month to offer me a land line for no more than $20.00 per month, including taxes. If they don’t do that, I’m gone. But I’m not expecting much – from what I hear Frontier Communications’ finances are such that it’s a serious question as to whether they will be able to pay off the debt they took on from this purchase, much less weather inevitable continued decline of land line service.

    About the only land-line service which will continue to be a reliable source of revenue for them are business phone systems.

  6. 6

    BeerNotWar spews:

    You can thank Amercan sprawl for our lower internet speeds. It’s just less cost-effective to upgrade on a per-customer basis in the U.S. since so many of the wealthier customers have fled the brown people by moving to distant suburbs.

    Along with crappy health care and collapsing public schools… the slowest internet on the planet is just one more thing brought to you by American racism.

  7. 7

    spews:

    They still own the wires–those are valuable. The wires aren’t going away. My friend, now, who has a very sick child, and is a Qwest employee–I think she is going to miss Qwest.

    BTW, no wireless service is ever going to be as reliable as a good wireline service. Ever.

  8. 8

    ArtFart spews:

    @5 For the last decade, I’ve done some consulting for a small business based in north Seattle. Their office manager lived in south Everett, and would telecommute using Verizon’s DSL. The service was sorta-kinda OK, but their customer support was absolutely horrid. Everything was farmed out to offshore call centers, so when you called you were dealing with a partial language barrier in addition to the fact that the first-tier responder didn’t know anything whatsoever about the service he/she was supposed to be helping you with.

  9. 9

    ArtFart spews:

    @6 This is also partly driven by the traditional American telco business model, which amortizes physical assets over a 25-year cycle.

  10. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Hey everybody! Let’s take up a collection to send Goldy to a Nevada brothel. The poor guy hasn’t had a vacation in years, and he deserves to get laid! Stefan needs to get laid, too, but we shouldn’t donate to him because he has $225,000 of county taxpayer money he can use. Goldy doesn’t, so it’s up to us to make sure poor Goldy gets what he deserves! Here’s a menu:

    http://www.sherisranch.com/bro.....pwW820w2=9

    P.S., Yeah I know this is a business thread, but this comment is about a business topic, so it’s not off-topic.

  11. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Maybe Darryl could set up a bank account for special donations and handle the money. We could call it the Help Goldy Get Laid Fund.

  12. 12

    notme spews:

    I wasn’t planning to ditch my Qwest service just yet but this merger will be the final straw. I have this freely admitted prejudice about corporations based in the racist, union hating, social net shredding, part of the country that elects people like Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and that idiot in Mississippi to run their states. I dumped Bank of America years ago when it was acquired by Nations Bank and the headquarters moved from San Fransisco to South Carolina. This merger moves Qwest from Denver to Louisiana. Buh-bye.

  13. 13

    Zotz spews:

    @10 and 11: Where the fuck did that come from? Have you been eating too much new green growth? Are you twitterpated, Mr. Rabbit?

    I’d be willing to bet a beer of your choice that sex with a whore in Nevada would not appeal much to Goldy.

    On second thought, are you really Roger?

    Goldy, I’m thinking given recent posts by sockpuppets of our trolls, it’s time to require registration to comment.

  14. 15

    ArtFart spews:

    CenturyTel’s in Louisiana….they couldn’t have been part of that horrendous shitpile called Worldcom before Bernie Ebbers got marched off to the slammer…..could they???

  15. 16

    Daddy Love spews:

    Deep thought: If financial reform passes, will a Washington bureaucrat stand between you and your hedge fund manager?

  16. 17

    rhp6033 spews:

    Art @ #8: That’s not an aberation. My wife worked briefly at GTE when it switched over to Verizon. The first thing they did was make it completely impossible for the customers to actually see a service representative. Customers who were trying to get billing problems resolved for months would come into the headquarters building in Everett, bringing all their Verizon bills with them, only to be directed to a bank of telephones where they could talk to the service representatives “upstairs”. Security guards kept customers out of the rest of the building. The explanation was that the customers would often get so mad, they needed the physical seperation for their safety. Yet in the meantime, they were always having contests and giving away big prizes to any employee who could drum up a lot of new business.

    It hasn’t gotten any better. A friend of mine, who does service calls for Verizon, told me a few years back that they had switched to having at least two techs in each van/truck. By the time they arrived at a door to investigate/fix a problem, the customer was so mad at the delays that some would get physically violent with the service guys.

    It certainly has to be worse with outsourcing of basic telephone customer service offshore.

    Interesting business model. Give away prizes to drum up new business, and simultaniously keep driving existing customers away in even larger numbers due to crappy service.

  17. 18

    Michael spews:

    @15

    Nah, Century Tel’s been around forever. They used to stick to smaller markets and rural places. Gig Harbor has Century Tel and had them when I lived outside of Spokane. They’re good folks.

  18. 19

    Michael spews:

    @12

    I dumped Bank of America years ago when it was acquired by Nations Bank and the headquarters moved from San Fransisco to South Carolina.

    I dumped commercial banks completely about a decade ago and haven’t missed them. I’m 100% credit unions now and, hopefully, will never have to ever step foot into a commercial bank again.

  19. 20

    spews:

    BTW, in many places you can lease DSL service from ISPs directly. The ISPs, in turn, deal with the local wire provider, Qwest, Verizon, or whoever, leasing only access to the wires themselves. You can therefore avoid Qwest and Verizon customer “service.”

  20. 22

    waguy spews:

    Some friends dumped their land line a few years ago in favor of cable telephone. Then they had a several day power outage due to a windstorm, leaving them with no phone, no internet, no tv, and no wireless (the local tower lost power also). For some reason, the phone line never seems to go out during these storms. Of course, with no power, you better make sure you have at least one corded telephone in the house even if you do have a land line…

  21. 23

    Zotz spews:

    @21, Roger:

    I didn’t think it was funny. And it didn’t “sound” like “you.”

    I guess I may have missed the predicate for the joke.

    Fill me in.

  22. 24

    worf spews:

    It has been at least 7 years since I’ve had a land line. I can’t even imagine why I would want one at this point. I canceled cable about a year ago, and fill all my media needs with my clear internet. (less than $30.00 month) I don’t miss either service. What i do miss is being able to tell where some one lived simply by knowing their phone #. 32 prefix, Capitol Hill. 28 Prefix, Queen Anne, 52 U-District, etc. At one time, your # meant something, damn it!!!! and I had to walk 15 miles to school uphill, in the snow in July. grumble,grumble,grumble….

  23. 25

    Puddybud sez, Ask the arschloch for his home HA database spews:

    Zotz@23

    You are a moron. It’s peeps like headless lucy who sock puppet us fool! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    THE DUMB BUNNY that was different, an indirect attack on Goldy. Never saw that coming.

  24. 26

    Mistamatic spews:

    I switched to Clearwire/ClearNet for internet/phone service a few months ago, and while it’s been faster than my DSL via Qwest’s phone lines, it’s still not as fast as they claim. Maybe it’ll get faster, who knows…but the wireless aspect is great, even if it affects my phone service when there’s an issue.

    Fortunately, my job doesn’t depend on the phone as much as it does the web (plus I can always use my cellphone), and I’ve been happy with how quickly Clear has responded to the few outages I’ve had.

    Another handy thing is you can get a recording when you call to report trouble, telling you they’re aware of a problem in your area, the status of the fix, and giving you tips on how to get back on, which have always worked fine. Very good customer service so far!