Greetings from NXTcomm

Sights and sounds from Tuesday at NXTcomm:

I struggle a bit to even type this, given that it puts my jaded journalist status somewhat at risk, but AT&T Chairman, President and CEO Randall Stephenson gave one of the better keynote speeches I’ve heard from an executive at his level yesterday to kick off NXTcomm.

 Stephenson took the stage after the obligatory 20 minutes of rock music blared out at a large audience that included the service provider customers for the show as well as exhibitor personnel.  (I’ve never understood why conferences use contemporary rock to introduce sessions which don’t feature any speakers under 40, but that’s just showing my age).

He proceeded to give an address that I thought was inspiring in that it highlighted the real potential ahead for telecom and challenged everyone present to work together to make it happen. I know that sounds cliched but he pulled it off, stressing the key points of velocity, connectivity and mobility as the way to stimulate economic growth and generate prosperity.

I happen to believe Stephenson is right - the telecom industry has much to contribute to improving the quality of life, reducing energy consumption and thus protecting our environment, improving education, lowering the cost and improving the quality of health care and helping stimulate our flagging economy.

Stephenson once again kicked off his speech with a bit of personal humor — last year, he had joked about discovering that becoming chairman of AT&T didn’t get him out of taking the trash out at home. This year, he confessed to watching Tiger Woods win the U.S. Open playoff round Monday on his iPhone, but quickly added, “I hope no one else at AT&T was doing that.”

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The Las Vegas heat has probably put a damper on some post-show activities and certainly prompted many to scramble from the air-conditioned convention center to the air-conditioned shuttle buses or cabs. I made a discovery early on — mix 110-degree heat with black handrails on outdoor escalators and you get a sticky black mess on your hands.  So those of you taking the monorail to get around Vegas, beware what lurks ahead on the escalator.

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Ever heard of the Water Coolers? I hadn’t either until Tuesday night’s NXTcomm Exception Reception in honor of the EOS Award Winners and DiversityNXT award winners.  The Water Coolers are a five-person a capella singing group that is also a comedy act, rewriting the words to familiar songs to poke fun at other topics, and last night they wowed the NXTcomm crowd with songs about airline delays, Blackberry addictions and even  Net Neutrality. The latter had the crowd hooting as the lead male singer sarcastically invited Congress to come in and take over running the telecom industry into which billions of private money had been invested. Maybe it’s the group’s San Francisco roots showing, however, when at the last minute, a female singer piped up about the other side of the story.

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