US West

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For information about the company after the 2000 acquisition by Qwest, see Qwest. For information on the geographical region of the United States, see Western United States.
US West, Inc.
Former type Public
Traded as NYSE: USW
Industry Telecommunications
Fate Merged
Predecessors American Telephone and Telegraph Company
Successors Qwest Communications International
Founded 1983 (1983)
Defunct June 30, 2000 (2000-06-30)
Headquarters Denver, Colorado, United States
Area served 14 western states
Owners AT&T (1983)
Divisions Consumer
Business and Government Services
Network
Small Business
Wholesale
Subsidiaries US West Communications
US West Dex
US West Information Technologies
US West Wireless
Time Warner Communications
Website uswest.com

US West, Inc. was one of seven Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOC's, also referred to as "Baby Bells"), created in 1983 under the Modification of Final Judgement (United States v. Western Electric Co., Inc. 552 Fed. Supp. 131), a case related to the antitrust breakup of AT&T. US West provided local telephone and intraLATA long distance services, data transmission services, cable television services, wireless communications services and related telecommunications products to defined areas in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. US West was a public company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "USW" with headquarters at 1801 California Street in Denver, Colorado.

Until 1990, US West was a holding company with three Bell Operating Companies: 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. In 1988, the three companies began doing business under the US West Communications name. On January 1, 1991, Northwestern Bell and Pacific Northwest Bell were legally merged into Mountain Bell which was renamed US West Communications, Inc. US West was the first RBOC to consolidate its Bell Operating Companies (the other was BellSouth).

US West merged with Qwest Communications International Inc. on June 30, 2000 and over time the US West brand was replaced by the Qwest brand. Qwest Communications International Inc. merged with CenturyLink on April 1, 2011 and the Qwest brand was replaced by the CenturyLink brand.[1]

Accomplishments[edit]

US West 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 logo, with Bell and slogan

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 also participated in a joint venture agreement with Time Warner Cable to form Time Warner Communications in 1993.

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[edit]

US West was accused by critics[who?] 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 1990s. After a failed re-engineering strategy, relations fell apart due to increasing hostility between company leaders and employees. When the company rolled out its new slogan – "Life's better here" – employees began wearing buttons and shirts that stated that "Life's Bitter Here".[citation needed]

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 competitive local exchange carriers (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 Federal Communications Commission (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.

Merger with Qwest[edit]

In 1996, reports appearing in The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News revealed that CLECs had lodged complaints with the FCC against US West, including multiple complaints from Qwest Communications International, Inc. The complaints alleged US West neglected or seriously delayed release of "bundled loops" as required by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, making it difficult for competitors to provide local telephone service to their customers. Other competitors began following suit, and charged US West with monopoly-like or anti-trust type behavior.[citation needed]

During the winter of 1999–2000, US West announced that it had received an unsolicited purchase offer from Qwest Communications International, Inc. At the time, US West had been attempting to merge with Global Crossing, but for months this deal had been stalled through the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). US West management publicly refused Qwest's offer. Qwest eventually purchased enough US West stock to enable Qwest to take control of the Board of Directors in March 2000.[citation needed]

On June 30, 2000, US West, Inc. and Qwest Communications International, Inc. combined via merger. US West, Inc. was merged into Qwest Communications International, Inc. with all of US West's direct subsidiaries becoming direct subsidiaries of Qwest.

After the merger, the Bell Operating Company subsidiary was renamed from US West Communications, Inc. to Qwest Corporation and other subsidiaries were similarly renamed to reflect the Qwest name.[citation needed]

After Qwest was acquired by CenturyLink in 2011, the Qwest brand was replaced by the CenturyLink brand. Subsidiaries, with the exception of Qwest Management Company (founded as US West Investment Management Company), which became CenturyLink Investment Management Company, retained the Qwest name and adopted d/b/a names.

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