As an investor, it doesn't pay to follow the crowd.

In this series, though, we highlight a possible exception -- the collective wisdom of our CAPS community. Read the next section if you're unfamiliar with our methodology. Skip it if you want to go straight to the results.

Why this crowd is different
Jumping into a stock because your rich neighbor did, or because you heard about it from your friend's uncle who used to work on Wall Street, or because CNBC has been talking about it nonstop is a recipe for disaster.

If there's one thing I've learned as a stock analyst, it's that any stock can be gussied up to sound like a world-beater. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that being a smart person doesn't make you a good investor.

In the hands of a smart person with good communication skills, the never-were and never-will-be stocks sound like tickets to instant fortune. The ancient Greek philosophers made the distinction between rhetoric and knowledge. The former is convincing; the latter is true.

That's why we factor in track record in our Motley Fool CAPS community. We invite everyone to give stocks an outperform (akin to a "buy" call) or underperform rating (akin to a "sell" call) in CAPS. We then use those opinions to calculate a rating for each stock -- from one to five stars (five being the best). But -- and this is a big distinction -- we give more weight to the opinions of folks whose picks have performed well in the past.

The top 10 telecom underperform calls
So, with that methodology as prelude, I present to you the 10 one and two-star telecom stocks with the most CAPS community member underperform ratings (I used a minimum market capitalization of $100 million and the proviso that must be listed on a major U.S. exchange). Remember, stocks are rated on a five-star scale by our CAPS community, so one and two star stocks are consensus underperforms.

Company Name

Market Capitalization (in millions)

52 Week Price Change %

Price-to-Earnings (TTM)

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Underperform Picks

Vonage (NYSE: VG)






Research in Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM)






Motorola (NYSE: MOT)






Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S)






Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)












ITC Deltacom






Earthlink (Nasdaq: ELNK)






Equinix (Nasdaq: EQIX)












Source: Motley Fool CAPS; TTM=trailing 12 months. NM= not meaningful.

There are some ugly earnings numbers here, with many P/E ratios that are not meaningful due to losses. Earthlink and Research in Motion sport low multiples, but Earthlink is a classic cigar butt company that's trying to milk its remaining value and Research in Motion faces stiff competition from Apple's iPhone and Google's Droid in the smartphone space. There may indeed be value there, but the CAPS community is skeptical.

More CAPS members think Vonage is an underperform than any other telecom-related stock. Do you think it deserves this lack of love? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Or just go there to do further research on one of these stocks.

For the flip side -- the top telecom stocks -- click here.

Anand Chokkavelu doesn't own shares of any company mentioned. Google and Sprint Nextel are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Google. The Fool has a disclosure policy.