After failing to attract a sufficient bid, Qwest Communications scrapped plans to sell its wholesale long distance business, acknowledging that “the company and its Board of Directors have determined that the long distance network asset holds far more value to Qwest shareholders and is more strategically important to Qwest . . . than is the alternative of pursuing a transaction.” Qwest—the smallest of the three remaining Bell operating companies—had hoped to pare down its $13 billion debt load through the sale of its wholesale long distance unit, which provides Internet and interexchange voice network capacity to competitive carriers. Unlike larger rivals Verizon Communications and AT&T, Qwest lacks its own mobile telephone network that would help to offset the company’s loss of landline customers to wireless platforms. In an announcement on Monday, Qwest confirmed that it had undertaken a review of its long distance business after receiving unsolicited “indications of interest from potential purchasers.” The company then commenced an auction process that, according to sources, brought in offers of around $1 billion from a range of unidentified bidders that fell far short of estimates that put the value of the long distance business at between $2 and $3 billion. Canceling the sale, Qwest CEO Edward Mueller maintained “we have always taken a disciplined, prudent approach to assessing our business,” as he described the Qwest network as “a tremendous asset [that] delivers best-in-class telecommunications services to businesses and government agencies throughout the country.”