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Verizon's incoming CEO sees modest economic rebound, big future in cloud computing

Running communications giant Verizon, No. 18 on this year's Fortune 500, demands skills spanning a technological century.

While Verizon still services copper-wire-connected telephones little changed from the days of Alexander Graham Bell, it also runs an advanced wireless phone network and competes for high-speed Internet access and TV services with its FiOS fiber optic cable system. Now it's pushing into the red-hot business of "cloud computing" — applications and services housed and offered over the Internet — with the recent $1.4 billion purchase of a Miami business called Terramark.

All this is under way as new (think Microsoft buying Skype) and old (think AT&T buying T-Mobile) players seem to multiply daily. Longtime CEO Ivan Seidenberg, who helped create Verizon, is stepping down later this year.

His successor will be company president Lowell McAdam, who was in downtown Tampa on Thursday to visit the Verizon staff and chat with the local press.

McAdam, 56, acknowledged Verizon suffered several years ago from overextending itself, seeking scale in its costly businesses while annoying too many customers with poor service. Those problems are on the mend, McAdam said.

McAdam, polished and thoughtful, touched on many topics.

Some highlights:

The economy: Verizon slowed its expansion plans in Florida as the recession left so many homes and condo projects vacant. It's expensive to enter a new neighborhood and hard to sell FiOS services when nobody's home. "I do not see the economy getting worse but building continuously," McAdam said. Verizon's key targets will be condos, apartment buildings and office buildings, where there are concentrations of potential customers in one place.

FiOS expansion: While competing mostly with cable provider Bright House Networks, FiOS still is not available in all parts of the market, including portions of St. Petersburg. McAdam suggested it's coming. But slowly.

Wireless: Remarkably, given all the buzz, McAdam did not even mention Verizon offering Apple's iPhone this year. But the executive did speak of the 4G (higher speed) wireless network and this summer's arrival of tiered data pricing on cell phones.

Easing rules on landline phone service: While Verizon focuses on the new, its legacy business — old school copper-wire landline phone service — comes with many obligations. New state legislation would lift limits on rate hikes for home phones and reduce regulators' ability to handle consumer billing complaints.

That's all good news to McAdam, who said "hats off" to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and argued that the free market "will more effectively regulate bad behavior."

Hmmm. Call me skeptical on that one.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@sptimes.com.

.Biography

Lowell McAdam

Age: 56.

Job: President, incoming chief executive (later this year) of Verizon.

2010 Pay: $7.2 million total compensation (due for big raise).

Succeeding: Longtime CEO Ivan Seidenberg.

Headquarters: New York City.

Employees: 194,400

Fortune 500 rank: 18th with $107 billion in annual revenue.

Hobby: Restoring old cars, currently a 1969 Indianapolis pace car.

Favorite TV: Sports. A hockey fan.

Personal sport: Water skiing.

What he'd do if not at Verizon: "Construction. I love to build."

Verizon's incoming CEO sees modest economic rebound, big future in cloud computing 05/12/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2011 10:42pm]
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