Soap Box: Competitive Spirit Will Endure Change

We now are well into 2008 and have begun a New Year with all the promise and challenges each New Year brings. Every New Year also brings a lot of changes in both our personal and professional lives. What are your expectations for 2008? What excites you about the opportunities? What concerns you? What are the unknowns? What are the hidden adventures? Are you positive or pessimistic about the year ahead?

I grew up in West Texas, in and around Amarillo. If you have ever visited that part of the state, you know it has some of the largest cattle ranches and farms anywhere. It is also an area known for high winds, dust, tornadoes, hail/snow storms and other harsh conditions. Many wonder why anyone would want to live there, but for those who do, there is no other place for them. The “pioneering spirit” that caused the first settlers to stop and “make a go of it” has left a legacy of “personal toughness, courage and determination” for those who live there today. I see that same “pioneering spirit” in this industry from those who started this competitive industry with not much more than a dream in 1975 to the entrepreneurs of today.

As CEO of COMPTEL, I am excited about 2008 and our industry. Our members have the will to succeed, the experience and ingenuity to find solutions to difficult problems, and the creativity to continue to bring innovation via technology and the marketing of their products and services to consumers. During the last 40 years of my time in this industry, competitive communications providers and their supporting vendors have met regulatory and technical problems with positive energy to “find a way” to overcome challenges and to be the “change agent” for improvements and new products and services. We have members that build fiber networks to the home to provide voice, data and video (CATV) services. We also have members who offer the same products, but via copper lines. We have members that offer advance network solutions, enhanced features, managed services, wireless services and several other services too numerous to fit on one page. We have gone way beyond long-distance, local dial tone and dial-up Internet.

We, too, at COMPTEL are growing and changing to meet the demands of our members. We have added Matthew Salmon as president to focus on our public policy issues. Salmon worked for US West for 10 years before serving in public office, first as an Arizona State Senator and then as a three-term U.S. Congressman. He most recently worked as a lobbyist and will be leading COMPTELs efforts in this area. Salmon brings not only knowledge and experience, but many personal relationships on both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. We plan to build on the many successes our industry achieved in 2007 and to be an even greater and more effective “voice” for competitors in 2008.

So what are some of the challenges and opportunities for our industry? There are four forbearance petitions from Qwest Communications International Inc. that seek deregulation in Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver and Phoenix, on which the FCC is statutorily obligated to rule, either in late April or July. Working together with enterprise customers, consumer groups, other industry partners and communities, we defeated similar petitions filed by Verizon Communications Inc. in December for six major metropolitan markets along the East Coast. We were successful in getting the FCC to re-evaluate the due process for these critical decisions. We already are working in the same ways to defeat the Qwest requests. We still need to gain relief on special access rates and contract terms and conditions. There are other important issues to address, including managed packet networks, intercarrier compensation, universal service support, enforcement of Bell company merger conditions, wireless spectrum, pole attachments, building access, access to copper facilities and maintaining access to bottleneck facilities. COMPTEL remains a strong voice in Washington representing the industry on these issues, but we also need help and support from individual companies.

You will see other changes within COMPTEL as we diversify and expand our membership and services. We want to help you grow your business by learning more about new technologies and providing opportunities to meet new prospects in 2008. COMPTEL will be hosting regional meetings in the coming year in major cities where you can fly in for the day, meet new companies, members and non-members, learn about the forum topic and have time to network. These will be fast-tracked agendas with designated times to meet and greet. We also will host several Webinars on industry topics that you can participate in without ever leaving your office. Each of these events will give us an opportunity to hear from you about how we can better support your business.

Our Web sites for both COMPTEL and continue to evolve with more information and interactive capabilities to better inform and equip you with the tools you need to take advantage of all of our member services.

Margaret Wheatley, an author and business consultant, once said: “The things we fear most in organizations fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances need not be signs of impending disorder that will destroy us. Instead, fluctuations are the primary source of creativity.”

I couldnt agree more with Ms. Wheatley, and I believe this competitive communications industry has proven her statement to be true. So, whatever challenges we face in 2008 really are opportunities to be creative. Together, we can do it.

Jerry James is the new CEO of COMPTEL, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing competitive telecommunications service providers, companies and their supplier partners.


Federal Communications Commission
Free To Compete
Qwest Communications International Inc.
Verizon Communications Inc.

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