This morning, Qwest (s Q) reported earnings of $185 million on sales of $3.32 billion for the fourth quarter of 2008 — an almost 50 percent drop in profits from the same period last year. The carrier was hurt by land line defections (it lost about 9.6 percent year over year) and slowing broadband, as customers chose cable over Qwest’s DSL services and new home construction waned. Qwest did gain 54,000 broadband customers during the quarter, although it didn’t specify if those were fiber to the node adds or DSL customers.
The other Baby Bells both saw a decline in plain DSL subscriptions during the fourth quarter but got a bigger boost in fiber-based broadband subscribers. However, unlike Verizon (s VZ) and AT&T (s T), Qwest doesn’t have a wireless business to bolster its top and bottom lines. This hurts Qwest considerably. As Om has pointed out, for the telephone companies, transitioning their business to offer triple play services while losing land lines is like walking a tightrope in skates. Without a wireless business to boost its profits, Qwest is performing this trick without a net.