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Qwest Corporation is a Bell Operating Company owned by CenturyLink. It was formerly named U S WEST Communications, Inc. from 1991 to 2000, and also formerly named The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company from 1911 to 1991. It includes the former operations of Malheur Bell, Northwestern Bell and Pacific Northwest Bell as well.

Qwest Corporation
CenturyLink QC
The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company (1911–1990)
U S WEST Communications, Inc. (1991–2000)
Private (Subsidiary of CenturyLink)
PredecessorColorado Telephone
Rocky Mountain Bell
FoundedJuly 17, 1911[1]
Headquarters100 Centurylink Dr, Monroe, LA 71203, USA
Area served
Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
ProductsLocal Telephone Service
ParentAT&T (1911–1983)
US West (1984–2000)
Qwest (2000–2011)
CenturyLink (2011–present)
SubsidiariesEl Paso County Telephone

It is one of two of the original 22 Bell Operating Companies (the other being Frontier West Virginia) not to be owned by a Baby Bell formed in 1984.


Mountain BellEdit

Denver Telephone Dispatch CompanyEdit

Recent Harvard graduates Frederick O. Vaille, and Henry R. Walcott, went to Denver and met a saloonkeeper, Sam Morgan, and together secured 161 customers, enough to warrant a return to Boston to secure a new telephone franchise from the American Bell Telephone Company.

When the franchise was secured, wires were strung, boys were hired as operators, a switchboard was installed and the Denver Telephone Dispatch Company opened for business on February 24, 1879. The Denver exchange was the seventeenth in the nation, opening just nine days after the Minneapolis exchange. Denver's Rocky Mountain News reported that "The Telephone Company are adding new subscribers to the system every day."[citation needed]

Building the Colorado Telephone CompanyEdit

Soon after the Denver Dispatch Company began operations, the Western Union-owned Colorado Edison Telephone Company began competitive operations. Western Union also began a phone company in Leadville.

The Edison Company, with its powerful transmitter, was able to offer service to the nearby towns of Golden, Georgetown, Central City, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo.

The competitive battle raged as the Dispatch Company acquired better transmitters and added Golden, Black Hawk, Georgetown and Central City to their calling area. When the American Bell Company won their patent infringement suit with Western Union, the Bell companies absorbed the Western Union companies. In Denver, competition for local service would remain absent from the market until 1997.

In 1880, Vaille sold two of his four franchise contracts back to American Bell, who sold them to Horace Tabor in Leadville. In January 1881, Vaille joined a group of Denver business leaders to form the Colorado Telephone Company. Denver Dispatch faded into history when Vaille sold his remaining two Bell contracts to the Colorado Telephone Company. Henry Wolcott was the president of Colorado Telephone, while Vaille stayed on as general manager for three years.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Telephone Company began to grow, as "boomer linemen" strung wire to ranches and farm towns in the flat lands, and to mines and mining towns in the mountains, and along Colorado's front range. Colorado Telephone purchased the Leadville company in 1888.

Rocky Mountain BellEdit

The Denver Dispatch Company was less than two years old when the Rocky Mountain Telephone Company began in Salt Lake City, Utah, with fewer than 100 subscribers. With the financial backing of American Bell, The Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Company replaced Rocky Mountain Telephone in 1883. Rocky Mountain Bell immediately began an aggressive campaign to buy nearly every small telephone company in the region, and their operating territory soon covered nearly all of Utah, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.

A combination of overspending, careless management, and the logistical difficulties of covering an extremely large, sparsely populated territory would eventually put Rocky Mountain Bell in financial trouble.[vague]

Mountain States Telephone & TelegraphEdit

These business practices stopped in 1911 when Colorado Telephone, Tri-State Telephone, and Rocky Mountain Bell merged to form The Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company. Vaille was well aware of Rocky Mountain Bell's problems and he insisted that Colorado Telephone Company managers take over the majority of management positions in the former Rocky Mountain Bell Company territory. Vaille served as a Mountain States director until his death in 1920.

A number of Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph buildings survive and are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.[2]

MST&T commonly did business as Mountain States Telephone until 1969, when the new Bell System logo came into use and the company began doing business as Mountain Bell. The company provided telephone services in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Southern Idaho, Wyoming, and the El Paso, Texas, vicinity. Additionally, MST&T acquired a controlling interest in the Malheur Home Telephone Company in Oregon, better known as Malheur Bell. MST&T operated Malheur Bell as a wholly owned independent subsidiary, an arrangement that continued until 2009.

Mountain Bell's operations in El Paso, Texas, were sold to Southwestern Bell in 1982.[3]

Prior to 1984, AT&T held an 88.6% stake in Mountain Bell.

Usage of the Mountain Bell name has recently been resumed by Unical Enterprises, who began producing telephones under the Mountain Bell name in 2006. Additionally, the domain is still active and redirects to the CenturyLink webpage.

From 1929 to 1984 the Mountain Bell headquarters was located at 931 14th Street in Denver, Colorado. As part of a company-wide real estate savings effort, areas of the building's interior were remodeled in 2009 and 2010, along with the adjoining 930 building, to accommodate employees vacating leased space in the Qwest headquarters building at 1801 California St.

Northwestern BellEdit

Northwestern Bell logo, 1969–1983

Northwestern Bell Telephone Company served the states just north of the Southwestern Bell area, including: Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska.

Northwestern Bell was formerly the Iowa Telephone Company, which changed its name to Northwestern Bell in 1920. It then absorbed the operations of companies such as the Northwestern Telephone Exchange, the Tri-State Telephone Company, Dakota Central Telephone Company, and the Nebraska Telephone Company.

The Northwestern Bell headquarters was located at 1314 (DOTM) Douglas Street in Omaha, Nebraska. It remained incorporated in Iowa, however.

Pacific Northwest BellEdit

Pacific Northwest Bell logo, 1969–1983

Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Company provided telephone services in the states of Oregon, Washington, and northern Idaho.

Pacific Northwest Bell was created on July 1, 1961, when the Bell telephone operations in northern Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state were split off from Pacific Telephone & Telegraph.

Prior to 1984, AT&T held an 89.3% stake in Pacific Northwest Bell.

Pacific Northwest Bell's headquarters are at 1600 7th Avenue (also known as 1600 Bell Plaza), in Seattle, Washington.


In 1984, the Bell System was broken into seven Regional Bell Operating Companies. U S WEST, Inc. became a holding company for Mountain Bell, Northwestern Bell, and Pacific Northwest Bell.

U S WEST CommunicationsEdit

U S WEST Communications logo, 1988–2000

In 1988, U S WEST became the first Baby Bell to have its different Bell Operating Companies carry on business under a single name. U S WEST Communications became a "d/b/a" name for Mountain Bell as well as Northwestern Bell and Pacific Northwest Bell; however, the three companies remained legally separate. The three companies also began using the U S WEST Communications logo, which continued to include the Bell logo.

Bell Operating Companies mergeEdit

On January 1, 1991, U S WEST merged its three operating companies. As part of the deal, Northwestern Bell and Pacific Bell were folded into Mountain Bell[4][5] Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph, the surviving company, changed its name to U S WEST Communications, Inc. on January 2, 1991.

U S WEST Communications was the first local telephone company to offer Caller ID service in 1991, nearly four years before any other local telco could do so. They were the first US telco to upgrade their PSTN to electronic switching before 1990 and they were the first to offer residential and business ISDN and later, DSL services to their customers by 1997.

U S WEST, since 1984, had been selling telephone equipment under the Northwestern Bell name. In 1992, U S WEST granted Unical Enterprises, who had been producing phones under the "La Phone" brand, the right to become the exclusive licensee to produce telephones under the Northwestern Bell name, which are still produced under the BELL Phones by Northwestern Bell Phones brand.[citation needed]

Sell-off of rural areasEdit

In 1993, U S WEST began selling off unprofitable rural telephone lines throughout its 14-state region.[6] It retained its telephone directory operations in the areas it sold.

In 1993, Pacific Telecom agreed to purchase 45 exchanges in Colorado serving 50,000 customers. The sale closed in 1994 and the lines were added to Eagle Telecommunications. In 1995, it sold several exchanges in Fremont County, Idaho to Fremont Telcom (which was acquired by FairPoint in the 2000s). The same year, Pacific Telecom acquired more access lines in Oregon and Washington. In 1996 and 1997, several U S WEST Communications exchanges in South Dakota were sold to Golden West Telecommunications. In 1996, Golden West acquired exchanges in Winner, Murdo, Burke, Bonesteel, Marion and Reliance; in 1997, it acquired lines in Clearfield, Gregory, Lesterville, and Witten. The sale included 8,500 access lines. The lines acquired were then added to Golden West's subsidiary Vivian Telephone Company.[7]

In 1999, U S WEST announced plans to sell 530,000 access lines in largely rural areas to the independent company Citizens Communications for $1.65 billion.[8] The sale would not have included U S WEST Dex directories in those territories. The transaction remained incomplete before 2000.

Acquisition by QwestEdit

In 2000, Qwest Communications International acquired U S WEST in a hostile takeover. At the time, U S WEST was trying to acquire Global Crossing, and resisted Qwest's takeover. Qwest was a much smaller company in terms of employees and market capitalization when it obtained control of the Regional Bell Operating Company. Because U S WEST's stock was trading at very high prices during the dot-com bubble, Qwest was able to purchase the larger firm, and the Bell Operating Company was renamed Qwest Corporation.[9]

In 2001, Qwest, which acquired U S WEST in 2000, terminated the sale of rural telephone lines agreed upon in 1999 because Citizens refused to complete the transaction.[10]

On December 14, 2009, Qwest Corporation absorbed the operations of its long-time subsidiary Malheur Bell.[11]

Acquisition by CenturyLinkEdit

On April 1, 2011, CenturyLink completed its acquisition of Qwest. At that point, Qwest Corporation became a subsidiary of CenturyLink and began doing business as CenturyLink QC effective August 8, 2011. The merger represents a reunion of exchanges acquired by Pacific Telecom in the 1990s that had been separated from U S WEST Communications.

Since acquisition by CenturyLink, Qwest Corporation has issued bonds traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the CTQ and CTW tickers.

Qwest Corporation is one of two of the original Bell Operating Companies to be owned by a company not founded in 1983 as a Baby Bell. The other is Frontier West Virginia.


CenturyLink QC is headquartered in Monroe, Louisiana. It maintains offices in major cities throughout the United States.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Colorado Secretary of State
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009. (see Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Building (disambiguation))
  3. ^ SBC Communications Inc. -- Company History Funding Universe. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  4. ^ Articles of Merger, January 1, 1991, [[Pacific Northwest Bell, Colorado Secretary of State]
  5. ^ Articles of Merger, January 1, 1991, [[Northwestern Bell, Colorado Secretary of State]
  6. ^ (1995-10-03). Us West Dumps Rural Phone Lines The Spokesman-Review. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
  7. ^ Golden West Telecommunications history Retrieved 2012-05-01.
  8. ^ (1999-06-18). "Citizens Utilities in $1.65 billion deal with U S WEST" The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  9. ^ Articles of Amendment to the Articles of Incorporation, July 5, 2000, Colorado Secretary of State
  10. ^ (2001-07-21). "Qwest cancels deal to sell phone lines" Archived June 12, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Brainerd Dispatch. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
  11. ^ Qwest Official Website - Malheur Bell Qwest Merger Retrieved 2012-05-10.

External linksEdit