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U S WEST, Inc.
Former type Public
Fate Acquired
Successor Qwest Communications International, Inc.
Founded 1983
Defunct 2000
Headquarters Denver, Colorado, USA
Industry Telecommunications
Products Telephone, Television

US WEST, Inc. was a Regional Bell Operating Company, one of seven "Baby Bells" that were spawned by the antitrust breakup of AT&T in 1983. It provided telephone and data service to several Pacific Northwest and mountain states. It was acquired by Qwest Communications International on June 30, 2000, in what some economists have charged as a hostile takeover. Prior to the publicly announced merger, US WEST was traded publicly under ticker symbol "USW." The company headquarters was located at 1801 California Street in Denver, Colorado, the present-day company headquarters of Qwest.

Until 1990, US WEST was a holding company with three subsidiary Regional Bell operators: Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph (or Mountain Bell; based in Denver, Colorado), Northwestern Bell (based in Omaha, Nebraska) and Pacific Northwest Bell (based in Seattle, Washington). On January 1, 1991, U S WEST consolidated Northwestern Bell and Pacific Northwest Bell operations into those of Mountain Bell, renaming it US WEST Communications, Inc., becoming the first Baby Bell to consolidate operations of its Bell Operating Companies (BellSouth with its BellSouth Telecommunications subsidiary being the other).

US WEST served most parts of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming (formerly Mountain Bell area); Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota (formerly Northwestern Bell area); and Idaho, Oregon and Washington (formerly Pacific Northwest Bell area).


US WEST's Accomplishments

US WEST Communications became a pioneer in the introduction and rapid system-wide implementation of telephone technologies designed by Bellcore (now Telcordia Technologies) in the 1980s and 1990s. Their lead in this push became one that many other Regional Bell Operating Companies had to scramble to keep up with. US WEST's success in this endeavor was for multiple reasons, which included their then-innovative use of "test-markets" for staggered roll-outs of new calling features in middle-sized cities such as Boise, Idaho, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Phoenix, Arizona before releasing them on a wider scale. (They were the first communications provider to use this strategy called beta-testing, a term used for many years in the software development industry). Their geographic presence featured telephone switching equipment that had been constructed fairly recent to the time frame, thereby requiring fewer upgrades. Their service area was also experiencing population growth at a tremendous rate, tripling their subscriber-base in a short time and increasing revenues.

US WEST Communications was the first local telephone company to offer Caller ID service in 1991, nearly four years before any other local telco could do so. They were the first US telco to upgrade their PSTN to electronic switching before 1990 and they were the first to offer residential and business ISDN and later, DSL services to their customers by 1997. US West was also briefly in the cable business with its purchase of Continental Cablevision in 1996, creating MediaOne (which was later spun off).

US WEST logo, with Bell and slogan

As a result of its rapid "bring-to-market" abilities and continued success in the advances in technology, the company quickly adopted a new slogan— "Life's better here."

Criticisms of US WEST

US WEST was accused by critics of failing to meet service needs within a reasonable time frame and of practicing predatory billing and collection methods. While the company often claimed that subscriber demands were often greater than their ability to fulfill orders, many critics pointed to high profit margins, spending on bring-to-market technology and lackluster investment in customer support.

US West went through a period of Union/Management relations that bordered on positive during the early 90's. After a failed reengineering strategy relations fell apart due to increasing hostility between company leaders and employees. When the company rolled out it's new new slogan— "Life's better here", employees began wearing buttons and shirts that stated that "Life's Bitter Here".

The company was fined multiple times by the State of Oregon for these practices during the 1990s. US WEST was also, at several times, involved in smaller litigation with other states within its service area for similar complaints from customers.

Qwest, MCI, and smaller CLECs who had recently been allowed to offer local service within US WEST's service area (as a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996) complained to the FCC that US WEST was uncooperative in releasing their formerly owned lines to these new companies. These types of complaints landed US WEST in court yet again, offering the complex question of whether or not the government could legally offer the sale of owned property to other companies in the event of deregulation.

The "merger"

Reports by The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News in 1996 revealed that CLECs lodged complaints with the FCC against US WEST, including multiple complaints from Qwest Communications, Inc. The complaints alleged U S WEST refused to cooperate with provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 specifically that US WEST had either neglected or seriously delayed release of "bundled loops" and had, through those actions, made it extremely difficult for companies to provide local telephone service to its customers; Qwest already provided long-distance service to its customers, but needed local service.

Other companies began following suit, and charged US WEST with monopoly-like or anti-trust type behavior. Courts were slow to do much about this because, at the time, the full "letter of the law" of the 1996 Act had no precedence.

During the winter of 1999-2000, US WEST announced publicly that it had received an unsolicited offer by Qwest Communications to buy the faltering company. At the time, US WEST had been attempting to merge with Global Crossing, Inc, and for months this deal had been stalled through the SEC and was earning both companies a lot of negative press.

At the time, US WEST publicly refused this request and derided it in the local press. Qwest, unable to gain US WEST's consent in a merger, purchased so much US WEST stock that they then were able to perform a hostile takeover of the Board of Directors in March 2000.

On June 30, 2000, the company was "merged" by order of the new board.

As a result of this merger, US WEST CEO Solomon Trujillo resigned officially. After stints at Graviton and Orange SA, Trujillo in 2005 went to his most recent position, as CEO of the Australian telecommunications provider Telstra, which he resigned from in February 2009.[1]

After the merger, the combined company was renamed Qwest Communications International, Inc., with the Bell Operating Company being renamed Qwest Corporation.

See also




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