One on One is a weekly feature offering excerpts of interviews conducted by The Evening Sun with newsworthy business leaders. Fred D'Alessio is president of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland.
Q.What do you see as your main initiatives in the coming years?
A. Well, I think the main initiatives in the coming years will be several-fold. One will be to continue to create a culture in the company, that is one of teamwork and a focus on quality. If I think about it from the perspective of what we're going to be doing in our network, one of the things that we're going to be working on is continuing to modernize the network with the most modern digital switching equipment and continuing down the path of deploying fiber optics technology in our networking.
Q. What does this modernization mean for the common customer?
A. Well, basically what it means -- it means a couple of things -- it means our continued ability to provide telephone service as efficiently as we can with the most modern equipment, which has been our history. That is No. 1. Number 2, it will continue to provide high quality service to customers. And No. 3, it will provide to them many new service opportunities, new service products. I should say, that will be coming out, probably over the course of the next 5 to 20 years, that will be based on this new technology.
Q. Being one of the technological leaders in the country, C&P has been criticized for being one of the more expensive services in the nation. Do you believe has hurt business in this area?
A. No. First of all, I don't think that view is accurate. Too often people compare basic telephone rates across the country without looking behind that. For example, they might compare a rate here in Baltimore where the folks in Baltimore can call a very large number of people for the basic rate, hundreds and thousands of people. And they may compare that to a rate someplace out in the Midwest where you can only call 50 or
60,000 people for a rate that might be a dollar or so lower. So when you look at it -- and we've done this -- when you look at it from the whole perspective, the perspective of the bottom line of the telephone bill which is the basic rate, the number of people you can call for that basic rate and then the toll services, the intrastate toll services, what we've discovered is that Maryland is very competitive, if not on the low end.
Q. In the recent hearings before the Public Service Commission about your infrastructure, the issue of price versus the technological advancement of the system was an issue. Do you think that the company would buy into an area based simply on the pricing, or do they buy in because of the technological advantages?
A. My opinion is they buy in for both. They come in for both. It was interesting in some of the testimony at the hearing, there were representatives from the state Chamber of Commerce, such as Don Hutchinson, who has had a lot of involvement in this over the last several years, and what he said was that he's talked to many businesses who are thinking about either locating or expanding in Maryland, and he has never heard of a problem with rates. In other words, they've never said I have a problem with moving to Maryland or expanding to Maryland because of the telephone rates. What they do talk about is the importance of a modern telecommunications infrastructure. So they consider both. We think that our rates are very competitive, but we also are very anxious to make sure that our network is and continues to be state of the art as these companies consider where they're going to locate and where they're going to expand.
Q. It used to be, years ago, that the telephone system was never an issue. It was always there, you picked it up, it always worked. But nowadays, every so often, AT&T goes on the fritz. You had your famous problem back in July where because of one digit in a computer program, the system in this area was hung up for a day. Is the telecommunications business and system becoming so complicated that it's more prone to breaking down at any particular time?
A. I think the technology has changed significantly. The technology has changed from primarily a hardware based network to largely now a software based network. Still a lot of hardware in the network.
Q. Do you mean by that, from mechanical to a computer based system?