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Industry Leaders: Turn, Face the Change

Adapt to change was the advice given to attendees at the CompTel/ASCENT convention in remarks by both the associations CEO H. Russell Frisby Jr., Chairman Sherm Henderson, who is also president and CEO of Lightyear, and its keynote speaker Broadwing CEO David R. Huber.

Frisby, quoting a Bob Dylan song, said the times they are a changin. No truer words have been said about the telecom industry, he said, noting that changing times call for a changing strategy. In the 80s, he recalls, CompTels members were first to take on the long-distance monopoly. In the 90s, they invested in local facilities. And, in the early part of the new millennium, they have developed broadband expertise and cutting-edge applications like VoIP and new technology like broadband over powerline.

While the decades and the technology may change, fundamental concern remains the same: making sure competition works, Frisby said. He added that along these lines competitive telecom companies must have access to underlying network facilities at reasonable rates.

Referring to the FCCs anticipated permanent rules governing unbundled network elements, Frisby said regulators have a second chance to support competition, create jobs and deliver consumer benefits. That can be their legacy.

CompTel/ASCENT Chairman Henderson said telecom is entering a new era that he compares to the transition from black-and-white TV to color — driven by our children. In order to get there, we must forget the frustration and the anger and stop the complaining and griping of the last two to three years. We have to stop being bitter.

In addition to the right attitude, he says the industry needs to execute and deliver. We need everyone in this room to get us there, he said.

Dr. Huber is perhaps a quintessential example of an entrepreneur that has adapted to change. His company evolved from an optical technology vendor to a service provider. I like change; I get excited about the opportunity to change things, he said. There are not too many [service providers] in this room that started out life as equipment manufacturers.

Huber offers one example of the competitors abilities to change holding an advantage over incumbents — they struggle with moving from a cost-plus business model. You can get them to trade capex for opex, he said, explaining that their operations remain less than optimal. Unfortunately, that has trickled down to competitors in the wholesale prices they pay, he noted. Inefficiency should not be subsidized, he argued — a sentiment that drew applause from the crowd.


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