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The GigaOM Interview: Qwest CEO & Chairman Edward Mueller

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This past week I got a chance to catch up with Edward Mueller, CEO & Chairman of Qwest, the smallest of the Baby Bells, which competes with its bigger brethren, AT&T and Verizon, in the long-distance, business and government markets.

Mueller, who at one time was CEO and president of Ameritech (now part of AT&T), replaced Richard Notebaert in August 2007.

Since then he has been quietly trying to shore up the Mountain Bells, forging alliances with the likes of DirecTV and making plans for a broadband future. My overall impression from our conversation was that Mueller is being very cautious and is loathe to making sudden moves.

From expanding data center capacity to adding new business lines, Qwest is staying true to its financial realities. The company, which posted $13.8 billion in sales for the full-year 2007 period wants to be “nimble & efficient,” Mueller explained. Here are edited excerpts from our conversation:

Om Malik: Your first few months at Qwest have been awfully quiet. What have you guys been up to?

Edward Mueller: We have laid out a plan and are finally putting meat on the bones. We want to be nimble and efficient. We are focused on our three core businesses — wholesale, small business and consumer. We are now one of the three picks for the government network (Networx), so I like our position. If we can get a wireless partner, we can do well.

OM: Why partner when you can buy yourself a wireless company? Sprint and Alltel are two that come to mind.

MUELLER: We are not looking to buy a wireless company at this time, and frankly buying Alltel and Sprint will be a reach for us. All we want to do is partner with a national wireless player where we can rebrand and remarket their service to our customer base. We are ambivalent about the technology but we want a partner with retail presence.

OM: What are your thoughts on wireless broadband? Also why not buy or build your own wireless broadband network?

MUELLER: Wireless broadband is going to be the biggest part of wireless and voice will ride on this network. I think it is going to be a robust network. But to play in this business your network has to be national and that is very expensive for us. We are a good partner for others for providing access to customers. That is what we are good at.

OM: What are your broadband plans? Any fiber-to-the-home plans?

MUELLER: We are expanding our FTTN network, and will soon offer 20 Megabits/second and eventually 40 Megabits per second using pair bonding. We are building this out and spending $300 million on it. The trial we are running in Colorado Springs has had a good uptake and customers are paying for the higher speed service. (Editor’s note: At a meeting with Wall Street analysts, Mueller said Qwest can make a billion dollars from broadband.)

OM: What are your video plans?

MUELLER: We are not going to offer broadcast television, but instead will offer video on demand and Internet video. We have a partnership with DirecTV and it is our desire that we provide uplink service for their video-on-demand service.

OM: What do you make of the current housing downturn? Qwest’s geographical footprint was where there was a housing bubble — Phoenix and Colorado, for example. Is this impacting your business?

MUELLER: We don’t comment on the financials. I think the economy is cyclical and I don’t think we have to change too much. We have a plan and we are going to execute against that.

13 Responses to “The GigaOM Interview: Qwest CEO & Chairman Edward Mueller”

  1. I called qwest three times now, all for the same thing to CANCEL my internt. I have no idea what they are doing there but i want this DONE please. One time the person just hang up on me. Other time the lady said someone will call me in a week, beacuse I told her I never said i wanted to be in a commintment so she was going to get hold of the call I made to qwest when I got the internet and go over it then cancel the internet. NEVER GOT THE CALL, but next time I called back they said that is a lie PLUS they are now saying I am in a two year comminement when the first time i called it was only one year. I WILL LIKE THIS STOPPED AND NOT PLANNING ON PAYING ANYTHING FOR THAT. My whole family is been with qwest from 5-7 years now and this what we get for staying with you, well NO THANK YOU THEN.

  2. September 10, 2008

    Dear Mr. Mueller,

    I apologize in advance for this email. A gentleman in your position and responsibility should never receive such a trivial email. However I feel you need feedback on your customer care.

    I am a single parent and it is critical I am able to communicate with my daughter at all times. I would like to list the sequence of event that has taken place and unfortunately the problem has not been resolve am I am left without service at this time.

    1. July 2008 my cable was disconnected on accident by Qwest and it took them a week to reconnect me again. When I called in I was on hold over 1 hour and then when someone came on the line they were very rude to me and said they could not help me. No one seemed to care that they had made the mistake of disconnecting my service ( that I had not asked for) and so I had to wait until they had time to come reconnect me when I had never asked for it to be disconnected in the first place
    2. Called and requested Internet Service on August 29, 2008 at that time I spoke to Lisa in Billing. I was on the phone with her 2 hours just to try to set up connection. At that time I was told that I had to have a telephone in order to have Internet in my home. So I agreed to a phone line as well. This was to be installed September 9, 2008 between 8a-12p and the Internet September 11 between 12p-5p.
    3. September 8th I called and confirmed that a technician would be at by home between 8a-12p.
    4. September 9th I had taken the time off from work to be home between 8a-12p. No one had showed up by 1:30 so I had to go to work. The gentlemen did not show up until 2:30p. At 3:30pm I tried to call home and the phone was not working. I asked my daughter to check the phone at home and there was no dial tone. At that time I called Qwest and spoke to a lady named Laura. She said that was normal and I would have a dial tone at 6:15pm when my order was put into the computer. That did not make sense to me but figured she knew what she was talking about. I waited until 6:30 and nothing. At that time I called into Qwest once again on my cell phone (going over my minutes) and spoke to a gentlemen named Mark. He told me what Laura had said was not at all correct. I should have had dial tone as soon as the technician connected my phone. He told me to go to Radio Shack or Wal-Mart and get a 2 line phone splitter. Not knowing why I should have to go buy anything. I proceeded to do that and of course that did not work.
    5. September 10th I called Qwest and spoke to a lady name Jeannett and was told a splitter never would have worked. And also that I did not need a home phone to have Internet.

    As you can see I have been on hold for hours. I have had very poor service. And I never get a straight nor correct answer from anyone. I was told my total cost for TV, Internet, and phone service would be $94.77 per month and now I do not even know if this is correct. As of right now I still do not have phone service. But I am sure they are charging me for it.
    I am very disappointed with everything that has happened and continues to happen. I have always paid my bills on time and do not understand why I can not get the service I am paying for and common curiosity from your employees.
    Please advise me what can I do to help Qwest expedite a solution to my concerns and problem?

    Thank you for you time in this matter.

    • Jeremiah

      the Aspen Big Brotherts program is about to fire you and your compnany in which you reprsesnt. The reason for this is the 100%+taxes on a phone line at quest. Please resolve this ten minutes ago as I have braught up this issue to chief Chif Federal Judge Easterbrook, and former President Clinton. The amount of time for your company to resolve issues will be noted.