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For the week of September 6 through 12, 2000

Valley needs DSL—now 

At the heart of American dominance of Internet technologies is the daring and vision of young entrepreneurs who gambled on perfecting their technologies and products that created market demand.

But no such vision and daring seems to be driving Qwest, the misnamed successor corporation to US West that has all the appearances of a giant elephant frightened by a mouse.

When asked why it’s dragging its feet on bringing ultra high-speed digital subscriber service (DSL) to the Wood River Valley, Qwest—whose name implies in pursuit of excellence—has no intention of taking risks that a market will develop: It’ll simply be a follower and wait until there’s a demand.

If builders of America's dot-com companies and technologies that serve the Internet had taken that attitude, Microsoft and Netscape might still be tinkering with versions 1.0.

Worse, Qwest also is standing in the way of several entrepreneurs who are willing to gamble, Rocky Mountain Communications and New Edge, on DSL. Without attempting to explain the technologies involved, the RMCI/New Edge partnership is being blocked from launching DSL because Qwest is delaying making necessary engineering changes.

This is wholly unsatisfactory behavior by Qwest, and utterly unbecoming of a major telecommunications firm that boasts of its prowess.

The arrival of DSL and other high-speed communications lines are vital components for economic development in the Wood River Valley, where use of the Internet as well as other communications systems unquestionably is high.

Consider this added indicator—cell phones. When cell phone service finally came to the valley several years ago, the service was swamped with demand. Although precise numbers are closely guarded, communications specialists say the valley has one of the highest ratios of cell phones to its population.

A reputation for having top-notch communications systems—such as DSL—serves to lure businesses and home office entrepreneurs who require state-of-the-art telecommunications facilities.

Qwest is a regulated communications firm. Its ability to conduct business depends on the goodwill of communities where it hopes to thrive profitably.

The valley’s political and business leadership have good and sufficient reasons to light a fire under Qwest to either speed up the opening of DSL here, or pave the way for others with proper engineering decisions.

The Wood River Valley can’t afford to wait for Qwest to overcome its silly apprehension and poor corporate vision about market demand. Opportunities are going begging.

To fracture an old aphorism, Qwest should either lead or get out of the way.

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