Poor Qwest Communications (NYSE: Q). It can't be much fun to always be eating the competition's dust.

At a time when Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is pulling fiber-optic cables right up to your home with AT&T (NYSE: T) hot on its heels, Qwest has just started to bring fiber to the node, where the high-speed signal then splits among the homes in your neighborhood. Where Verizon pulls in its own FiOS video service, Qwest has to lean on DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) if it wants to sell any kind of a voice-and-video package.

The business lag shows in Qwest's results. Phone line revenues are shrinking steadily, and the growth in data and video services can't quite keep up. In all, operating revenues in 2007 came in 1% below 2006. There are still 8.7 million phone subscribers under contract, but that's 7.7% fewer than last year. Broadband growth isn't keeping up with voice-line shrinkage. The fiber-line effort is necessary, but comes across as a Hail Mary from a company that is running out of options.

If you want to ride the data bandwidth wave without getting too bogged down by increasingly irrelevant voice lines, I'd suggest that you take a look at efficiency expert Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM), proactive telecom giant Verizon, or infrastructure equipment makers like Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC) or Juniper Networks (Nasdaq: JNPR). And I hear that both our Rule Breakers team and the Global Gains analysts have found other fresh and tempting telecom ideas recently. Read all about it with a free 30-day trial pass -- or two.

Further Foolishness:

Akamai is a current Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation, but it ain't the new idea I hinted at 10 seconds ago.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund is an Akamai shareholder, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is always one step ahead.