Bill Demuth, CTO of SureWest, talks about technology, power of relationships and life after retirement

Bill Demuth, following 34-plus years at SureWest/Roseville Telephone, will this week retire from his role of CTO of the independent ILEC. During that 34-year span, Demuth was in the driver's seat of various telecom technology innovations the company adopted to better serve its business and residential customer base, including the advent of digital voice switching, Fiber to the Home and IPTV. But even with all of those technology accomplishments under his belt, Demuth said one of his greatest accomplishments during three decades with the ILEC were the friendships and relationships he developed with various members of the telecom industry. FierceTelecom Editor Sean Buckley caught up with Demuth to reflect on his long career at SureWest and what's next for the telecom veteran.

Bill Demuth, CTO, SureWestFierceTelecom: Bill, you were with SureWest/Roseville Telephone for 34 years and will retire at the end of the month. Why are you leaving now, and how has the industry changed since you came on board in 1976?
Demuth: I guess as far as the industry goes, it has changed from a predictable and monopolistic environment that was focused on providing voice service over copper to the highly vibrant and competitive industry that we have today that provides voice, video voice and data over a variety of wireline and wireless networks. Back when I went to work for Roseville Telephone back in 1976, we did have a 1ESS computer switch, but when I started I worked on a step by step switch. At that time, all of our facilities whether it was a CO or interoffice, were all on copper.

FierceTelecom: What was one of your biggest accomplishments?
Demuth: Over the past few weeks I had been doing a lot of reflecting, and if I had to pick my biggest accomplishment it would be building a strong network of friends and acquaintances to share ideas with. I think SureWest has been and continues to be an important player in the industry. By sharing knowledge that we've gained and our successes and our challenges, I think we're not only able to push that innovation to our customers, but even as a relatively small company we've been able to influence the whole industry. Relationship building has probably been, when I look back, one of my strongest accomplishments.  

FierceTelecom: SureWest/Roseville was an early adopter of many technologies, including digital switching, that took a leap of faith. How important was that innovation to your company, and what did it do for you?
Demuth: Innovation has always been an important part of our company's history. Our company has been located in high growth suburban markets with high tech customers. Being an early adopter wasn't a leap of faith, but a forward looking approach to meeting growth and consumer demand.

That first step into digital switching, which occurred around late 1979, was to meet the demand of some of our customers. Hewlett Packard had just moved into the area. Roseville Telephone was an important part of their decision to move into the area. It was the first time one of their major manufacturing facilities moved into a non-RBOC area. I think it was our ability to prove to them that we could provide advanced voice switching, but digital switching enabled us to provide those other enhanced services. Back then, advanced services were call waiting and call forwarding.

Bill Demuth, CTO of SureWest, talks about technology, power of relationships and life after retirement