This weekend, Verizon is turning on their fast new mobile telecommunications network. Early testing shows Verizon’s 4G LTE network to be incredibly fast (although 4G is expensive—there’s no “unlimited” option).
Not a big deal, and honestly not much of a story in itself. But this week I got to thinking about Verizon and business change . . . and politics . . . when I got involved in a discussion about the 4G LTE roll-out here. In fact, it seems I said something worth hearing; my comments on Verizon and politics have started spreading to other places that you wouldn’t expect to find them.
Verizon’s 4G LTE roll-out is a vivid example of the way business process and business change work in telecommunications, but this discussion about politics and FIOS . . . well, it shows how business really works:
Let me be clear that the story I’m about to tell is anecdotal; I’m not suggesting anything systemic, endemic, or nefarious was or is going on. But that’s the nature of politics—or at least we hope it is. Verizon is big enough to be able to afford an entire department with people everywhere just to make nice, and that’s one way business change happens.
Verizon has a “Community Affairs” department, led for many years by a guy (specifically, a rather influential lawyer) who has repeatedly been rumored to be on the cusp of being offered a federal judgeship. And unlike, for example, Supreme Court appointments, which are so heavily vetted that even Presidents are afraid to offer them to their buddies, most levels of judge appointments are about doing favors for old friends.
But what kind of favor is it to offer a $175,000 per year job to someone who’s been making way more than that? It isn’t about money, it’s about power. It’s about maintaining a political status quo and having people on whom you can call when you need an unofficial quid pro quo.
Now burrow down into the way business change is managed in the Verizon Community Affairs machine:
I spent several years working for Verizon in New York City in a job that was a combination of sales and community-perception stuff. One day I reached out to a mid-high-level Verizon manager (two levels higher than myself… which itself was not appreciated by the guy in MY organization at that level) to play “let’s make a deal”. And cut a deal we did: his people funneled me sales leads and I made sure that their interests locally were expedited.
What did that mean? It meant that one time I made something that should have taken a week happen in just a day for Senator Hillary Clinton. I did something similar when Representative Charles Rangel’s office called.
Officially, there’s no way to do what I did. In fact, Verizon has policies in place (foisted on them by government regulators, humorously enough) specifically stating that everyone is equal. But because Community Affairs had me to grease internal wheels, they were able to do favors like that for politicians.
In return, when Verizon needed help getting something done . . . like a soft interpretation of the existing rules for delivering cable TV content over their FIOS service, politicians were . . . friendly.
Is that Business Change or Business as Usual? A little of both. And the beauty of being as huge as Verizon is that you can do both at the same time. Small business, of course, usually needs to either defend their status quo or jump full-force into business change.
Pay attention, friends; My views on the way the telecommunications business works have been popular on the Internet before. For example, my commentary on the way the Federal Subscriber Line Charge works has long been ranked near the top on the topic by Google.