Stating the obvious

Th 101044
Th 101044
Stephen M. Hardy
Editorial Director and Associate Publisher
stephenh@pennwell.com

This month's issue leads with a story on how Verizon has put the pieces back together in the year since the events of Sept. 11. At the same time we assembled this story, and in a small way relived our horror at what happened in New York, we read nearly daily wire stories on yet another communications carrier whose management is under investigation-or under arrest-for violations of business or accounting ethics. Needless to the say, the juxtaposition of the heroism displayed last year and the current revelations about these corporate pirates made it hard to feel good about the market we serve.

As I write this, it is difficult to predict whether the investigations at WorldCom, Qwest, AOL Time Warner, Global Crossing, Adelphia, et al., will have concluded by the time these words reach you. More worrisome, I can't say whether these probes represent the extent of the industry's wrongdoings. Nor can I foresee if they will lead to witch hunts that will scar the innocent as well as the guilty. But obviously, I can say this: Accusations and investigations of corporate wrongdoing, cooked books, and misrepresentations of bandwidth demand are absolutely the last thing that the telecommunications industry and, by extension, the optical communications community need in the midst of a downturn.

Kind of makes it tough to get up in the morning, doesn't it? The other day, I posted one of our "QuickVote" Web surveys that asked how the scandals have affected visitors' expectations of a market recovery. Early returns show that 43% of respondents were either slightly or much more pessimistic about the market because of the scandals. Worse yet, more than half selected "Recovery? What recovery?" to describe their mindset. Yes, the mood is pretty dark out there.

And it's not much brighter in here, the office of the editor of Lightwave, at least as far as stumbling across a path that I can suggest out of this gloom. Most of the directions that occur to me are the obvious: Resolve to conduct business in an ethical manner, question the validity of sweeping pronouncements on how bright (or even how dark) the future will be, and just hang in there, because despite the current problems they face, carriers will still spend billions of dollars worldwide this year, next year, and the years after that. None of this strikes me as very inspiring.

Of course, that doesn't mean these directions aren't accurate, for all their obviousness. If the ups and downs we've experienced over the last few years have taught us anything, it's that few "new par adigms" are more than mirages. Therefore, it may not be a paradigm shift or a killer app that gets the industry out of its current predicament. It may just be going back to what has worked before: good technology that meets current and future needs cost-effectively. Obviously.


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