Introducing: The Top Innovators

In the wake of scandals at Global Crossing Holdings Ltd. and WorldCom Inc. (OTC: WCOEQ), it's easy (and wrong) to conclude that all of the big decision makers in the service provider business are more crooked than a barrel of fishhooks.

Despite financial shenanigans, there are some true innovators out there and Light Reading is endeavoring to point them out on its new Service Provider Circle site. A new Top Ten list –- the Top 10 Service Provider Innovators –- names the top carrier gurus in the industry. Light Reading's editors and readers nominated candidates based on who was putting their necks on the line to advance new business models and new services. (And we don't just mean finding new ways to hide expenses, either.)

The list's purpose is to recognize those individuals who are making the key technology and business decisions within service provider networks. Light Reading's editors will rank the performance of The Innovators over time, based on the network performance of the services for which they are responsible and the net worth of the carriers to whom they are responsible (see Wanted! Service Provider Pros).

The inaugural has a few predictable entries and some surprises as well. Few would quarrel with the selection of Luca Martini, Senior Architect, Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT). Martini's name is synonymous with creating true multiservice MPLS networks and he's well known for his influential "Martini Draft" for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

The list's surprises include the appearance of Charles E. Hoffman, President and CEO, Covad Communications Inc. (OTC: COVD). While many dismissed Covad as a dead horse when it filed for Chapter 11, Hoffman spared the company from the dogfood factory by helping it clean up its debts and secure new investments. While Covad's not in the clear yet, it has come a long way and may end up being the only nationwide DSL provider to survive the telecom bust.

Now, Light Reading isn't saying these folks are without fault. One or more of them very well might end up in the pokey someday. However, from what we have seen so far, The Innovators are more known for bold decision making than for ethical lapses.

As the service provider list evolves, Light Reading will rely on its readers to weigh in with their opinions on the current Innovators, as well as any deserving souls who may have been left off. To nominate a service provider innovator today, click here.

— Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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