Those Poor Phone Companies

Qwest CEO Richard Notebaert, speaking at the Silicon Flatirons conference, used a great quote from former LA Dodgers managerTommy Lasorda: “I’ve stopped telling people about my problems. 80% of people listening don’t care, and the other 20% are glad I’m having problems.”

Notebaert’s words are ironic, because his predecessor, Joe Nacchio, got into hot water by whining about his company’s problems. In an incident that has become infamous, Dan Gillmor blogged in real-time about Nacchio’s comments at PC Forum, turning the audience against hostile when people discovered Nacchio was pocketing enormous profits from selling Qwest stock.

Of course, like any good politician, Notebaert followed the Tommy Lasorda quote with a litany of complaints about how phone companies are regulated more than their competitors in the cable industry. Some things never change.

He had one good anecdote about the rate of wireless substitution for wired phone service. Qwest used to have to cancel vacations and schedule additional staff time in Boulder, CO, in early September, in order to handle the influx of University of Colorado students who needed phone service. Today, a huge percentage of those students just use mobile phones for their phone service. Qwest no longer sees a spike in demand when the students come back.