It’s not cheap to lay more than 20 miles of cable, capable of uploading a high definition movie in two seconds, across two different cities. And it’s definitely not cheap to pledge both the Democratic and Republican parties $6 million each in services and cash, which Qwest did in exchange for the title of official telecommunications provider of the conventions.
Qwest recouped some its investment by charging media providers for the telephone lines and Internet connections needed to transmit their stories and HD videos online and on air.
But Qwest believes the true payoff from its convention activities will show up after the convention lights are turned off. “We are hoping that business customers say that… if they can do it for these conventions they can certainly help me with our business,” says John Stanoch, president of Qwest’s Minnesota division.
Qwest faced several unique challenges in both convention venues. In its headquarter city of Denver, Qwest employees scrambled to lay down telephone and Internet lines at Invesco Field after Democratic nominee Barack Obama decided late in the process to give his speech in the stadium instead of at the smaller Pepsi Center.
In Minnesota, where Qwest was not the in-house technology provider at the convention headquarters, the company had to build an operation largely from scratch.
Stanoch says employees were standing outside the Xcel Energy Center at 6a.m. the day the RNC took over the convention center, ready to begin installing cables. The company also had to rush to put in more phone lines when Hurricane Gustav threatened to turn the convention into a fund-raising relief effort. "We heard late Sunday night and had that ready to go by 3a.m. in the morning," says Stanoch.
Failing with either of these last minute efforts could have blown the public relations opportunity Qwest purchased. But, on the last day of the convention, it looks as though the company's gamble on giving its services away, largely for free, to highlight its capabilities may just pay off. A Google news search for "qwest" and "conventions" yields dozens of stories in major publications. That's undoubtedly a boon for a telecommunications company who doesn't have the brand power of a Verizon, AT&T or TimeWarner.