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From the week of June 6, 2002

When Worst Comes to Qwest

The numbers game: Stuart Steers's "Wring Out the Old," in the May 23 issue, was the best-written article I have read yet on the downfall of US West (Worst), now known as QWEST Worst! The article was readable and understandable, and it was so nice to read a story written by someone who wasn't biased.

I was a 32-year employee when I retired; thanks to a CWA union contract that allowed me to retire with thirty years of service, I could leave when I still had my sanity. I started with South Western Bell, then moved to Northwestern Bell, then US West and then Qwest. The first twenty years were good; the last twelve were hell. I saw good people fired daily for things that were not even measureable items in the sales-quota requirements. If you weren't making your quota, it didn't matter if you had 29 years -- you were gone. I was a union officer, and I saw many of them gone with lots of service. Lower-level management didn't have any say on how they ran their office: make the dollars or get rid of the bodies not making them.

I'll have been retired three years on June 8, and I can say I am so glad.

Sharon Walton
Omaha, Nebraska

Board games:I want to commend Stuart Steers for his excellent report on Qwest. In my opinion, it deserves to be reprinted in both Barron's and Forbes. You will probably receive some flak from Qwest management, but believe me when I tell you that 99 percent of your readers agree with you.

What amazes me about this whole fiasco is that none of the boardmembers have shown any embarrassment, much less resigned, in acknowledging what they have allowed on their watch. Could it be that their perks, bonuses, etc. from Qwest keep their mouths closed? How are they explaining their side to the thousands of people adversely impacted by this fiasco, who relied on a board to keep the ship from running aground? It would be interesting to know how much remuneration each boardmember received during his tenure for the long and tiring days and nights they must have spent deciding on how to fairly compensate Joe Nacchio and his crack team for a job well done?

Looking forward to reading more of Steers's reports in the future.

Bill Klepinger
Highlands Ranch

Crash course: I just finished reading Stuart Steers's article on Qwest. I am 100 percent in agreement with what he wrote, and what was related to him by others -- but he has not even scratched the surface of what is going on at Qwest. (I became fed up with the way things were going there and left this year.)

Everyone is focused on money matters (i.e., excessive executive compensation, stock prices plummeting, pension plans eroded, etc.) simply because that gets the greatest instant attention. What is not getting any attention at all will have a far greater impact on millions of people as well as the employees (active and retired) and the stockholders. What I am referring to is the day-to-day operations of the company.

Qwest is not spending any money on its physical plant that provides "plain old dial tone." The plant degrades every day due to weather, aging and man-caused problems. But little or no maintenance is being done.

You can run your car without oil for a bit. But sooner rather than later, it will go belly up on you. Like the TV commercial says, you can pay me now or you can pay me later. Well, later is much more expensive than now. Five dollars of oil is far cheaper than $2,500 for a new engine.

You can go to the bank with the fact that not far down the road, you are going to start seeing telephone service degrading at an ever-increasing rate. Large-area service outages as well as localized (neighborhoods) will begin to occur on an almost daily basis. And who does this affect? Every customer and every business in fourteen states. Customers and businesses large and small. Government entities (federal, state and municipal). Anyone who depends on Qwest facilities (either through Qwest itself or through vendors that lease Qwest facilities) is at risk for service interruptions.

Twenty-five to twenty-seven million Qwest customers don't care about the stock price or executive compensation plans or what lies Nacchio is telling to what group. What they care about and depend upon is reliable telephone service. I fear that unless massive changes are made at Qwest, in the near future this service will fail rapidly.

With the debt load that Qwest now bears, it will not be in a position to get the funds to try to rehabilitate the physical plant (personnel and materials), and it will all come crashing down like a house of cards.

Name withheld on request


Gil, Grilled

Publish or perish:Gil Spencer's letter to Westwordin the May 30 issue was wrong.

Neil Westergaard was never editor of the Denver Post. When Spencer retired as editor of the Post on September 30, 1993, he recommended Westergaard for the editor's position.

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