Qwest Pledges to Open Local Markets

Qwest Communications International Inc.
Tuesday introduced a series of sweeping policy changes, creating a new
wholesale division to handle business with competitive local exchange carriers.

Qwest intends to establish a “Performance Assurance Plan”
designed to enhance the quality of service it delivers to CLECs by offering
compensation if it fails to fulfill certain service level agreements.

But the plan would only go into effect if Qwest’s entrance into long
distance services were approved.

The federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits former “Baby Bell”
operators from providing long distance in the areas to which they provide
local service until they prove they have permitted sufficient competition
from smaller companies.

Qwest also dropped 17 lawsuits against state regulators in a gesture that
demonstrates its intent to bolster competition in its service area and
eliminate state barriers to entering the lucrative long distance calling
market.

The lawsuits were originally filed by U S West, which was recently acquired
by Qwest. The suits had challenged states’ authority to regulate
interconnection obligations, collocation equipment, prices and the bundling
of services.

CLECs criticized the U S WEST lawsuits as an orchestrated attempt to slow
the progress of local market competition and the deployment of broadband
services.

According to Qwest, its pro-competitive initiatives for CLECs are designed
to speed-up the deployment of competitive calling and Internet services in
tandem with increasing network efficiency.

Steve Davis, Qwest senior vice president for policy and law, said the move
doesn’t just open the door to competitors it takes down the door altogether.

“Our wholesale customers will have faster, easier access to our network,
which will create greater competition and more choices for consumers,”
Davis said.

But Qwest’s voluntarily offering to upgrade nearly 600 performance
benchmarks with CLECs is falling on deaf ears among several of its local
rivals that refer to the company as “Qworst.”

Many CLECs have reported experiencing nothing but problems since Qwest
acquired U S West. One firm, that preferred to remain unnamed, said the
traditional Qwest representative is a thing of the past and with it, the
customer service is gone, there are billing errors galore, and the business
relationship is lightly to end up in court.

CLECs complaints to local public utilities range from lost orders and
installation delays in excess of three-months, to no assistance at all.
Some CLECs see no end in sight for Qwest’s problems and are opting to
switch carriers in order to receive better customer service.

Qwest’s Davis stands firm that the company is legitimately committed to
improving competition in its service area and said that it is reviewing
additional market opening proposals that will be announced in the near future.

“This is a significant step in a series that Qwest will make over the next
few months to increase competition and give consumers more choices for
local phone service,” Davis said.

    The Qwest pro-competitive initiatives include:

  • CLEC-to-CLEC connections for the purpose of mutually exchanging local
    traffic
  • Permitting collocation of high-speed packet data switches in Qwest
    central offices
  • Offering CLECs the option of pre-ordering unbundled dedicated
    interoffice transport prior to completing the CLECs collocation space in
    Qwest central offices
  • Offering a single point of interconnection per Local Access Transport
    Area
  • Offering CLECs a 90 day collocation interval and the ability to reserve
    collocation space

Greg Casey, Qwest executive vice president for wholesale markets, said the
firm is proactively taking a fresh approach to meet t

he needs of wholesale
customers.

“Wholesale sales forces will soon be on a new compensation plan to
stimulate sales and meet customer needs,” Casey said. “We intend to have
double digit growth in wholesale sales in 2001 because of the demands of
firms that want to provide local service.”

Davis asked that CLECs give the carrier another chance to prove that its
pro-competitive initiatives are more than lip service and a lure to gain
regulatory approval for its bid to deploy long distance services.

“We’ve said from day one that Qwest is going to be different,” Davis said.
“We want to bring about competition in all markets — local service, long
distance, cable television, the Internet — and starting today we’re going
to make this a reality.”

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