Colo. Locals Play Wait-and-See with Qwest


Denver-Two Colorado communities waited last week to learn if Qwest Communications International Inc. would scuttle a video strategy it inherited when it bought U S West.

Qwest officials told Boulder and Douglas County it was reviewing what to do about plans U S West had to deliver video using very-high-speed digital subscriber lines in their communities.

Richard Varnes, telecommunications coordinator in Boulder, a community of 100,000 north of here, said it has become "quiet out there" after initial hoopla surrounded the city's issuance of a permit allowing U S West to compete with AT & T Broadband for area cable subscribers.

So far, activity has been limited to some early site work, which city inspectors were called out to review. "But there hasn't been any additional work done," he said.

In Douglas County-which gave U S West a license to serve 123,000 residents in unincorporated areas of the county-officials were equally in the dark.

"We haven't had any word concerning their plans," county spokeswoman Kristin French said, U S West's activity had been limited to obtaining some rights-of-way permits, she added.

Tight-lipped Qwest officials said VDSL was not the only part of the business under the microscope.

"Post-merger, we're evaluating all of our business units," Qwest spokeswoman Jane Morrissey said. The company plans to discuss video plans during a Sept. 7 call with analysts, she added.

U S West originally envisioned using VDSL to protect its share of the local-exchange business by allowing it to offer a bundled package of telephone, video and high-speed Internet access.

But a recent Lehman Bros. Inc. report speculated that Qwest may abandon VDSL and concentrate on offering high-speed-data services to businesses.

"That makes it likely, in our opinion, that Qwest is not going to move forward aggressively with the VDSL initiative started by U S West," Lehman analyst Steven Levy concluded.

Another analyst, who asked for anonymity, questioned the financial wisdom of such an undertaking, arguing, "It's going to be a while before we see a VDSL strategy for the telcos. I don't think the technology exists to economically push video through the phone lines."