Qwest Sues AT&T, CEO Staying Put

After months of unsuccessful negotiations, Qwest is suing AT&T for fees related to toll-free calls routed over Qwest’s network.

The Denver telecommunications provider alleges that AT&T failed to update records of toll-free numbers that were called using Qwest’s network. As a result, Qwest says it under-billed AT&T for using its network by between $15 million and $20 million a year for more than three years. In addition, Qwest is seeking damages, interest and legal expenses.

“We exhausted all other means,” Qwest spokeswoman Rebecca Tennille told internetnews.com. “So we filed suit in federal court Tuesday to try and recoup these fees.”

AT&T denies the allegation.

“In the normal course of our ongoing business arrangements with Qwest, this is a contract and billing dispute that we have been working to resolve over the past 16 months,” spokeswoman Susan Fleming said. “We will file a formal reply to the complaint in U.S. District Court at the appropriate time.”

In other Qwest news, CEO Richard Notebaert told employees he doesn’t want the top job at Motorola . He has been with the company since June 2002.

In recent weeks, Notebaert’s name surfaced in media reports as a favorite to lead the Chicago-area maker of mobile handsets, networking equipment and consumer electronics.

But on Friday, he sent a company-wide e-mail saying he isn’t interested and remains committed to workers, customers and shareholders as Qwest retrenches.

“We’re thrilled,” Tennille said. “There wasn’t much credence to it, but it’s nice to put it behind us.”

Motorola isn’t commenting on its executive search. Its current CEO, Christopher Galvin, who clashed with directors over strategy, will leave when replacement is found.

With the Motorola rumor quashed, one of Notebaert’s next priorities is to decide how to spend the $4 billion from the sale of its QwestDex phone book unit.

Among the uses is buying new telecom assets, which can be had cheap given the turmoil in the market during the last two years. A portion may also be used to pay down debt, something Wall Street analysts have been advocating.

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