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The Almighty Buck

Qwest bids $55 billion for US West, Frontier 61

Posted by Hemos
from the my-head's-spinning dept.
wanderingstar writes "Bell South owns 10% of Qwest, the US' 4th-largest long-distance carrier and owner of a very high capacity backbone. Qwest has bid $55 billion to acquire US West (another Baby Bell) and Frontier. US West, in turn, is planning on acquiring 9.5% of Global Crossing (a competitor of Qwest's with their own $40+ billion bid in for US West) - a stake that would be included in a potential Qwest purchase. Anyone else need a roadmap to figure out the telecom business? " My big concern with these is that we are seeming to run into the same sort of incestous relationships that have plagued certain countries industries. Am I unfounded in my concern?
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Qwest bids $55 billion for US West, Frontier

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  • I think that the internet may be too good to be true as is.

    Corporations are getting too big and the government is too small and weak to really do anything about it. Look at the MS trial, what harm is really going to come of MS from it? Not much.

    If the internet becomes too expensive for me personally (to use at home), and at work I am behind a restrictive firewall, well I have no choice but to give up on the internet as a useful tool for my own personal gain. Without the internet, I might as well throw out my PC too. Disgust would drive me too it.
  • I don't think Frontier is a baby bell. I visited their heart in Rochester because our company installed a product there (that they later returned, battered and broken).

    Frontier is known in the MN area as having atrociously bad customer service. Until they closed the office here in the Twin Cities, when you walked in to talk to someone, you were greeted with a row of phones in front of a big pane of bulletproof glass that didn't have any people behind it.

  • Hmmm, potential competitors merging = fewer competitors = "all sorts of competition on the horizon". Even us anti-trust socialists can tell that doesn't add up.
  • The fun thing is, "There's always a bigger fish." (sorry, Qui-Gon)

    Everyone is paranoid about Qwest becoming the next AT&T when there are a lot of other companies doing similar things, quietly. Yes, there will be a lot of really huge companies running the telco show for a while, but they ALWAYS get smacked around by a small company in the next economic upheval. (WorldCom is the seminal example of the 90s. MCI is the seminal example of the 70s and 80s.) It's the nature of corporate and competitive evolution. And if the big U.S. companies get lazy, faster foreign companies will come in and compete with them (U.S. automobile market, late 1970s).

    Here are just SOME of the waiting-in-the-wings competitors:
    Level3, whom I think will probably merge with Sprint in a blockbuster move. They're doing a Qwest "if you build the fiber, they will come" strategy, but they're not selling traditional circuits or cloud services. They're going to be wholesaling IP, that's it.

    PSINet, who is just ACHING for a telco merger partner to get some respect with (like UUNet did with MFS and WorldCom). They've got the network and the know how even if they are perceived as a third-choice vendor.

    Euro-powers: Telekom (Germany) will make a bid for France Telecom's share of Global One soon, which will put that company in the drivers seat of G1. G1 has a lot of clients in the US. Meanwhile BT has been cut out of the US market by its alliance with AT&T in a move incredibly reminiscent of (forgive me) the Hitler-Stalin pact. ;-) And C&W owns MCI's former Internet business, which gives them competitive strength in the market.

    Asian-powers: NTT, KDD and others are also eyeing the US market.

    The key is opening up the local loop, which is happening in spite of the baby bells in many places. I, for one, get my phone service from my cable TV provider here, and it's NOT AT&T. Cell phones are becoming so ubiquitous that many people are using them as their primary phone.

    The mergers we're seeing are a manifestation of the dynamism of the industry, not necessarily a competitive threat. LET Qwest by USWest's problems, and either reform 'em or fail. Either way, the end consumer wins.

    That's just how I see it.
  • Phil Anschutz (large force behind Qwest) is a ruthless and cagey businessman who knows how to run a business and make a buck along the way. Phil is an old oil tycoon who did railroads and then telecom as the markets changed. He's one of the best-known businessmen in Denver, and for good reason.

    Solomon (Sol) Trujillo (US West) can't seem to keep his company running, much less make any progress. US West is a joke among their customers and other telecom people. But they have valuable assets and customer base.

    Don't get me wrong, the time period immediately following a merger of the two wouldn't necessarily be pretty -- Phil's known for brutal management when necessary, but I bet the combined company would come out of the gate kicking butt.

    Everyone I know who works for USWest has told me that no-one understood the merits of the Global Crossing deal, but everyone feels Qwest could work wonders.
  • I hate US west as much as the next guy, but your AT&T/TCI lovefest is a bit premature.

    1. As any AT&T data customer can tell you, their customer service is abysmal. Lies go down, tickets are opened, vice presidents are written, no explanation ever comes.

    2. AT&T is quite happy to demand access to other people's cable pants, but they bitch and moan and throw a fit when people want access to theirs. Fair is fair.

    3. TCIs customer service is even worse than AT&Ts.

    4. Forcing people to provide access to their infrastructure at competitive rates can work rather well for the consumer. If we had to rely on USwest for DSL in seattle we would be getting nowhere fast. Fortunatly, Covad can rent copper from USwest and hook it to their own network. The result: When US west was promising 3 month install times, covad was doing in three weeks. USwest is feeling the competition too. Their install times have dropped and they just cut their prices by $20. This from a company who has been trying to jack up the price on ISDN for years.
  • My company exclusively uses Frontier for all communications. They have a proprietary arrangement with an email service in California on their sonnet network and we are in Cincinnati, OH and our email is sent and back within one call. It's fast, real fast. And our long distance costs are below $.06 . I'm very excited about the new opportunities this merger will bring.
  • Hopefully this merger would make things better for US West customers. It would be hard to deliver worse service than they already do!

    US West has a bad habit of abusing its employees, as well as its customers. Recently, for instance, they were going to refuse an overdue promotion for one of their line people in our area because he was going to be retiring soon. He's one of those rare people that you would hire in a heartbeat. Other line employees threatened to walk off the job in protest. They all received notices warning them that they would lose their jobs, but the situation was defused by giving the guy his promotion.

    I will be moving about three miles in August. I already have my order in for the phone lines to be moved, and I asked to keep my present numbers, since the area is within the same exchange. My experience with this company leaves me wondering if I've provided sufficient advance notice for them to get things right without turning off the phones here later on THIS week instead of the middle of August!

    This is a company that's worth buying? I don't think so!
  • by MoNsTeR (4403)
    This wasn't exactly news to me, since I read it on the front page of The Denver Post's business section...

    I can hardly express how happy I will be if Qwest does indeed buy USWest. If you have to ask why, then you must not be a USWest customer. Their service is abysmal. Analog connections above 33.6Kbps are IMPOSSIBLE in Metro Denver because of the shitty condition of USWest's lines, which they would never even think of upgrading. Their DSL service is wildly overpriced, at $50/month (including line and ISP) for 256Kbps. Some Canadians I talk to on IRC have the nerve to COMPLAIN about paying $55can/month for 1.5Mbps!!!

    I can only guess that USWest's monopoly in these parts has taught them to be lazy. When I heard that AT&T/TCI would be laying a new framework in order to deliver phone/TV/Internet, I was overjoyed! But then the Denver City Council took a page out of Portland, Oregon's book and decided to delay the construction so they could force AT&T/TCI to share out their lines. What BS! They lay the lines, they get to do what they want with them. Unfortunately, as you probably know, Oregon won their little dispute, and now it's doubtful whether AT&T/TCI will continue their project there AT ALL. The same is likely to happen here. But now with the prospect of a Qwest buyout of USWest, there is new hope in Denver of inexpensive, reliable, and generally high-quality phone service and broadband internet access!!!

    MoNsTeR
  • "Did you hate those where a certain company claims credit for products that don't even exist? You will!"
  • I have seen the OC maps, the sonet maps, the layout in various cities, and I have to say it's impressive. I'm so psyched with this company, I may need to buy a lot of stock from them.

    But it's gonna be an odd lot, I can't afford to blow 3500 dollars on one basket.
  • 2. MaBell was assembled from various regional companies before they were broken up in the 80s.

    3. I didn't think that Qwest actually bought the rail lines outright, I thought they just acquired rights of way from the railroads. Isn't it interesting that the governments big give away to the railroads is being used to shrink time and space further.

    Good point about MCI, never the less, they wouldn't be where they are today without goading the government into going after MaBell with the sharp knives.

    I thought Rochester was a scrap from AT&T.

    Clearly though, telcom is totally inbred and has been for a long time.
  • I say I hope Quest whips US West into shape. I have had my share of problems with them.

    Hey if you ever are not getting anywhere with one of their reps, just ask them how to go about filing a formal complaint. They will then REALLY try to fix your problem.

    TCI@Home is coming to my area here in Iowa at a snails pace. If you ask me, they are all bad.
  • Yeah, but god has all the good private peering arangements.
  • Wildly overpriced at $50 a month?!? Here under Ameritech (50 miles NW of Chicago) I pay just about $105 a month (line and ISP) for 115Kbps ISDN I can't even dream about getting 256Kpbs DSL until around the first of NEXT YEAR.
  • Jeez, some of you guys are just not getting why this is significant. By purchasing Frontier, Qwest would have access to Frontier GlobalCenter, the crown jewel in Frontier's acquisition spree of several years ago.

    They've been operating as a lean, mean machine for several years, and have quietly taken hold of some of the largest sites on the Internet today. Do we really want Qwest, the granddaddy of "last-mile" services taking over the lowest level content distribution market???

  • >Pretty soon a handful of companies will own all
    > our forms of media disribution, everything we
    > read, hear, and see will be at the behest of
    > our corporate masters. Microsoft and AOL are
    > tugging it out in the high speed access/cable
    > tv arena.
    Oh yes. Especially in the UK. MS are currently taking stakes in a large proportion of our cable operators (anyone know what that proportion is?). We thought having BT as a monopoly wasn't a good thing, but I'm sure we haven't seen anything yet....
  • Posted by Assmodeus:

    yeah tell me about it... my dads company just purchased 23 t3's from philly to new york city... and theres a shitload more where those came from...
  • US West's 'service' is poor enough that I've considered moving just to get away from them. The local office hasn't updated their equipment is something like 15 years, so there are half-completed calls, no dial tones, drops and every other telecom disaster you can imagine. Even on off hours they can barely bring enough capacity to bear to handle the local calls, let alone dialup, etc.

    Of course it may not be a problem much longer. Things have gotten so bad that the city is trying to kick them out, or at least force them to try to harder. I'm helping with the research (evil grin).

    (Of course, I'm in communications hell. Falcon Cable, home of the $29 basic cable service (up $8 since the FCC ruling was appealed). Oh, and enough line noise that I can barely top 26k on my 56k modem--thank you GTE...)
  • I don't know if any of you heard about it, but down here in AZ, there was a big strike by US-WEST employees. I was unfortunately thrown into one of the backup teams, and I would not like to repeat that experience. So, if Quest wants to bring in their own guys, I think it would be for the best.
  • Posted by Assmodeus:

    yeah tell me about it... my dad and his company just purchased 23 t3's from philly to new york city... and theres a shitload more where those came from...
  • I spoke with my Frontier rep and the one of their vice presidents and they said they aren't even going to entertain the idea of Qwest. While they did say that the redundancy on circuits would create a rock-solid network, it's just not in their best interest. Maybe U.S.West will go this one alone?

    Who know? The Shadow Knows!!


  • SDSL from USWest in Seattle is US$29.95 month for 256k. ISDN 128k BRI is about US$75 a month. DSL is far less expensive than ISDN. The problem is that you have to deal with USWest to get it.

    We just got (well, they are pulling the bridge taps off our loop) 1.1MB SDSL from Covad for US$349 a month including router and a /20 hunk of IP addresses. The problem is that Covad has to get USWest to provision a clean loop.

    Dave
  • In Washington State, USWest has become immune to threats of a complaint, since so many people complain. I've had to go to the State three times on ISDN issues. Twice for being non responsive to install orders, and once for billing for a service that wasn't able to be turned up, due to the building wiring.

    After 8 months, I got a single $1000 plus bill, for the previous 8 months. When contacted, USWest offered to waive the install and first month, only. The State took care of it and I ended up with a credit.

    Anyone that says having USWest is good, hasn't used them.

    Dave
  • by tgd (2822)
    Wildly over priced? A 256k DSK here (if you're lucky enough to live in the few percent of exchanges in CT that have it), it'll cost you at least five or six times that.

    If it works at all.

    I know a ton of people who would gladly pay $350 a month or more for a 256k circuit, but the only option is frame-relay at $100 more than that for a 56k.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Remember the part in T2 when the bad guy (AT&T) has been
    frozen and broken into a thousand pieces .... and
    everyone breathes a sigh of relief ..... they
    can get on with their lives ..... then it gets creepy and the bits melt and start blobbing
    together ..... well that's the stage we're at now ....
  • by edgy (5399)
    All I know is that I was about to buy some Qwest stock, and I'm glad I didn't buy it just yet. After that takeover bid, the stock dropped over 10 points today from 45 to about 34!

    At any rate, in a purely financial sense, is it worth putting some money into Qwest at this point?

  • For those of you paying attention to the stock, it lost a bunch today on announcement of the news -- as did several other tech stocks.
  • The Baby Bells have been trying to get back together for years; that should surprise nobody. They started doing so right after they were allowed to do so again.

    However, more and more people in the data/IP industry are convinced that relatively soon, data will be regarded as a mere commodity; it won't matter who you buy from, unless you've got stupendous amounts of capacity. IP will effectively become another utility.

    One of the main reasons why buying out Frontier is so attractive is that Frontier participated in the last Qwest fibre buildout, and now Frontier has excess fibre capacity; Global Crossings, on the other hand, is laying tons of trans-oceanic fibre (and its only real competitor right now is the CW unit.) Lots o' trans-ocean and lots o' trans-US fibre complement each other nicely... and trans-{Atlantic, Pacific} capacity is still sufficiently rare that it won't be considered a mere commodity in the near term.
  • The big question is whether or not it's still the same old US-Worst guys running the show, or if Qwest would bring in folks to run the day-to-day. Qwest doesn't (AFAIK) have any experience as a (I|C)LEC, so it will be interesting. So, it could wind up as business as usual, with the profits going to Qwest instead of the US-Worst guys.

    Interesting to note that by gobbling up US-Worst, this could make Qwest the ILEC in the Denver area, aka the stomping grounds of Level3. Makes me glad I didn't take that job with L3... :-)

    --j

  • I've had dealings with Qwest recently. They haven't even lit HALF of the fiber they have laid, and already they have more bandwidth than any body - perhaps even God.
    On the other hand, US West... well, Quest can't hurt, that's for sure!
  • to end user's homes, that is. They have invested a tremendous amount of money creating one of the wrold's largest fiber networks. The question remains, what is going to fill it? Business data? Movies-on-demand (as their new commercial suggests) Scientific data? It seems they are now thinking voice long distance, which seems to indicate they now understand the basic glitch in their plans, which is that huge amounts of data flowing between tens of thousands of points(businesses/universities) isn't going to fill the pipe. That will take moderately large amounts of data flowing between hundreds of millions of points, and that means your average consumer. Unfortunately, the last mile to those average users is still copper wire, low bandwidth. Thus, it makes sense for Qwest to use some of their huge bandwidth for long distance voice service.
  • Usually, when a company announces a bid to buy another company, their stock will drop. Then, once the bid is approved, their stock shoots back up. Also, the stock of the company being bid on usually goes up considerably. I work for Ascend Communications who recently got bought by Lucent for $20+ billion and that's how things worked out with our deal. Anyway, just about all the tech stocks took a big dive today so I'm sure some of the drop was due to the overall market and not just the bid for US West and Frontier.

    > At any rate, in a purely financial sense, is it worth putting some money into Qwest at this point?

    It looks like Qwest is planning something big here (I'd hope so since they're ready to shell out $55B), so I'd be willing to bet their stock will jump up pretty soon. With all the fiber they've been putting in the ground I'd keep my eye on Qwest in the hope that we'll all be getting some nice high-speed access soon!
  • Global Crossing's management is made up of some _heavy_ players - I think the CEO (or former CEO) of AT&T is on the GBLX board.

    (in addition, the data unit of Frontier [GlobalCenter, neé ISI/PrimeNet] only has a couple hundred employees, yet is forecasted to provide a very very large chunk of Frontier's profits.)

  • The problem isn't really when telecomm companies buy each other -- in fact, I'd argue that because of economies of scale, that's a good thing: they're able to reduce costs while putting together a large network. The problem comes in when these companies don't have much competition. We still have AT&T, MCI/Worldcom, Level 3, Bell Atlantic/Nynex, Bell South, Ameritec, Sprint, GTE (well... didn't they just merge with somebody?) and a few dozen CLECs.

    My guess is that you'll continue to see consolidation along the way, and we'll end up with a handful (3-5) of companies which will compete fiercely with each other.

    The thing I think is the most bizarre about this is the sheer difference in size. According to the WSJ, Global Crossing has 148 employees -- they're a *START-UP* company that's trying to buy US West (~54,500 employees) and Frontier ( ~8100 employees).
  • by Gumber (17306) on Monday June 14, 1999 @02:29PM (#1850997) Homepage
    If this has you worried, I have to wonder where you have been.

    A fragmented background on many of the players.

    1st. Bell Atlantic and USwest are made of peices carved from old MaBell. Other peices include present day AT&T.
    2nd. MaBell was formed by balling up all sorts of small regional telcos in the earlier part of this century.
    3rd. Qwest was started by a former AT&T guy and a former railroad guy (he knew how to get rights of way for all that fiber!)

    Elsewhere we have MCI/Worldcom which was formed from MCI and worldcom. MCI was at the vanguard of the charge to break up MaBell in the first place. Worldcom was made from MFS, Wiltel and UUnet, among others (I think). As part of the MCI merger, MCIs IP backbone was sold to Cable & Wireless who themselves strung the first transatlantic cable.

    Wiltel's fibernetwork was built by Williams in Williams old Natural gass piplines. Williams sold of the network, signed a noncompete, used that time to build capital and now that the noncompete has lapsed, they are building a new network.

    Back to MFS. After selling out, some MFS founders decided to build Level3 communications which is currently leasing fiber from Frontier/globalcenter while they build their own network.

    Frontier, I believe, is formed from an old baby bell.

    I may have some of this wrong, but not so wrong that it makes the whole post wrong. Point is, telecom is heavily inbred. Brothers, mothers, sisters, cousins, all interbreding.
  • The basic idea these days seems to be to build a network of terabit fiber and then go get some customers. Unfortunately, despite deregulation, the only way that these companies can imagine getting customers is to buy local phone companies lock, stock, and barrel, and herd their customers, most of which have never even used the internet, in the general direction of ADSL and cable 'net access.

    This seems kind of odd to me, but I guess it's considered normal by phone company executives who have never done it any other way. It's an unfortunate by-product of a process where backbone capacities have improved quickly, but local loop (frontbone?) capacities are lagging - the companies have to get their goods to market, but can only do so by buying into slow-growth, highly regulated local monopolies.

    It would be great if some of the independent ADSL providers could get into the local market. My take on the Qwest and Global Crossing efforts is that the leaders of these companies think the independents will be squeezed out by the local telco monopolies. They're probably right, as most people probably have no idea that their phone lines could be piggybacked with another vendor's ADSL, and hooked to an ISP and backbone feed separate from the phone company.

  • To really understand what is going on, one should read the Gilder Technology Reports (http://www.gildertech.com/)a subscription monthly newsletter which explain much of the Telecosm, which is also the name of a soon to be released book. That's two things to buy :-). Will that get me thrown out of here? :-)
  • Heh. I work for Qwest, most notably their Internet Solutions branch, IE: We're the hosting guys. I got to test the network from the LA area to Virginia. 60ms ping times. Damn that was cool. Qwest is going to be big, watchout.
  • 1. And Lucent and Bell Labs.

    2. That was the eighties, my good man. Less than twenty years ago. (earlier part of this century?)

    3. Buyer of Union Pacific. Railroad lines mean preestablished right of way.

    MCI stands for 'Microwave Communication, Inc.'; they got their start doing point-to-point CB-like service, I believe, and then branched out into long distance.

    Nobody seems to know how or why Worldcom got to where it is now. :)

    L3 is currently doing OK, since nobody likes MFS and Worldcom much any more. (This also explains why UUNET turned into a bunch of bastards after Worldcom bought 'em... originally they were the only commercial inet presence, the only place where you didn't have to know the secret ARPA/NFS handshake to get a net connection, nor had to deal with the NFS AUP.)

    Frontier is the former Rochester Telephone Company. Ain't a Baby Bell. (The data portions of Frontier were only bought like last year, too.)
  • Alot of customers of US West have complained about how bad service has been, and also alot of spam with sites pointing into US West's IP space has been spewing out. Getting someone who knows how to handle the business at the other end of the line is like finding a needle in a hay-filled silo. I think they're up for a nomination into the Realtime Blackhole List for not being responsive to complaints.

    They don't say US WORST for nothing.

    ---
    Spammed? Click here [sputum.com] for free slack on how to fight it!
  • Actually.. Qwest has been doing long distance for quite some time.. ever since they bought LCI. Data is whats new to them, and they're going to have no problem at least partially filling those pipes.
  • I hope so. The only reason that I've been supporting the ATT/TCI merger is because it might make US WORST compete.

    US WORST. It's bitter here.
  • Don't forget Frontier. When Qwest started building their network it was with an investment from Frontier. Frontier owns 25% of the original fibers Qwest laid. If the buyout succeedes, Qwest gets that fiber back. Frontier has also been doing interesting things with their fiber. Like a $3 mil contract with Cerent to deploy their optical transport platform. Frontier Global Center also hosts Yahoo, Playboy, and others.
  • Sigh, I've been watching this happen for years as have the rest of you. Pretty soon a handful of companies will own all our forms of media disribution, everything we read, hear, and see will be at the behest of our corporate masters. Microsoft and AOL are tugging it out in the high speed access/cable tv arena. Now companies are merging in the telephone industry again. Remember AT&T? We're going to end up with entire portiton of the internet owned by one or two companies (yes I realize that now many backbones are operating by a handful of companies but that number is going to get much smaller) and all of our broadcast television is going to end up whatever Microsoft or AOL wishes us to see. All of our content will be provided by Fox and radi owill remain in the hands of CBS, NBC, and ABC. Everything will be censored according to the particular company's user policy. Big corporations win, we lose. Without the ability to choose between one provider and anaother we'll end up with the kind of treatment AT&T provided before being broken up. You have to have one of their techs install a new phone (or cable box or any other medium of data exchange), if you have a problem with the service...oh well. You're no longer a person, just a marketing statistic, you always have been and for the forseeable future always will be.

    I want you to get up, get up right now and go to the window. I want you to stick your head out the window and yell at the top of your lungs, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

    Support your local destablizing element.

  • I only have two weeks or so experience with US West and I'm already fearing the worst. With plans to move into my new place in Minneapolis on 1 June, I called a week prior to set up new service so it would be ready the day I got there. Well, lo and behold, it didn't work on 1 June, so I called. They explained that 'someone' had pushed the date back on the computer and it would be done on 2 June by 5 PM. The next day someone stopped by while I was out and left a message saying that I needed to call an 800 number to schedule an appt. to complete installation. When I called, they explained that they hadn't anticipated needing to get inside so they couldn't have forewarned me about the possibility of needing to be there, and oh by the way we can't set you up now until Saturday 5 June. Great. And they need a four hour window to do it. Better. So my roommate and I completely rearrange our schedules to be home from 2-6 PM on a beautiful Sat. afternoon, and guess who NEVER shows up--US West. I call AGAIN, and it is explained away as a case of the problem simply 'not being assigned to a technician'. Well, at 7:45 PM on Monday 7 June they finally did it. And now the kicker is that when I originally called before I moved in, the guy ran a line check and found that I qualify for the 256k DSL service, but now I don't anymore for some reason. Stuck with dialup...hmph. A pretty lousy situation after being spoiled by 10BaseT for the last four years.

    US Worst seems to be a fairly apt moniker in my estimation.
  • MCI stands for 'Microwave Communication, Inc.'; they got their start doing point-to-point CB-like service, I believe, and then branched out into long distance.

    To nitpick, the MCI in MCI Worldcom no longer stands for anything, much like AT&T doesn't stand for anyhting anymore....

    Actually everyone owes MCI a great deal of gratitude for suing AT&T many times during the late 60s and 70's which eventually led up to the decision to break up the AT&T telecom monopoly. Can you imagine the state of US telecom if the market consisted of just AT&T, GTE and the few very small local operations that never were bought up by AT&T?
  • If Qwest buys USWest, then maybe I'll get DSL. It's been two years and it is still not available in my neighborhood yet. I wish there were alternatives in the Denver area.

    Maybe some suggestions?

    ~afniv
    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"

"Life sucks, but it's better than the alternative." -- Peter da Silva

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