“It really is a new company with significant assets in the eastern US and that Greenfield mentality permeates everything we do. We are building a best-in-class indirect channel that is not hampered by legacy policies and processes,” Bob Uphoff, Bightspeed’s channel manager, told CRN in an interview.
Brightspeed, an incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) business that started this fall, has plans to make the channel a critical part of its business strategy.
“The indirect channel is critical to moving our distribution strategy forward,” Bob Uphoff, Brightspeed’s director of business development for the indirect channel, told CRN. “I want to build a sales culture that embraces the partner community through its policy and processes.”
The new regional ILEC has strong company assets and capabilities along with a startup-like culture that is intent on empowering members in a self-service format, Uphoff said. “What that means is that we are going to bring services to the regions that we operate in that have not been available to them in the past and we will do it with partners.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted approval in August for Lumen Technology’s sale of its ILEC assets in 20 states for $7.5 billion as a way for the struggling service provider to return to financial growth. The assets went to Brightspeed Internet, a company created by Apollo Global Management. Through the terms of the deal, the investment management firm has agreed to acquire Lumen’s ILEC business, which includes its customers and assets of consumer, small business, wholesale and primarily copper-served businesses with which it will launch Brightspeed Internet in October.
Just a couple of months later, Brightspeed, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is now the fifth largest ILEC in the country. The company reaches more than 6.5 million homes in the Midwest, Southeast, and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 22 states in all.
Historically, when ILEC’s assets are spun off, they are sold and integrated into a company with existing indirect policies, practices and culture. But Brightspeed is a new company offering a new opportunity, Uphoff said.
“It really is a new company with significant assets in the eastern US, and that Greenfield mentality permeates everything we do. We are building a best-in-class indirect channel that is not hampered by legacy policies and processes,” he said. “This is very unique for a company in our industry.”
The provider gained about 25 legacy channel partners from Lumen after the acquisition, a third of whom Brightspeed has established partner agreements thus far, Uphoff said. Brightspeed is also working to reach more partners through relationships with various telecom service brokers and distributors, including TBI and Telarus.
Brightspeed won’t get bogged down by the reputation an existing company has, said Tim Basa, senior vice president of sales for Telarus, a Brightspeed partner based in Sandy, Utah.
The channel is looking forward to seeing how Brightspeed will use its strong assets to carve out a foothold in the telecommunications market, Basa said. For example, the new provider may come in and put its flag in the ground with services in second-tier markets outside of major metropolitan areas, something it has already begun to do, or offer engineered solutions for a particular subset of customers, such as small or midsize businesses: The places where many channel partners play, Basa said.
“That is where they will win in the channel, with a clearly defined niche,” he added. “The channel is always looking for companies with a competitive differentiator that can help their customers conquer challenges and achieve goals, so if Brightspeed delivers that to the market, they will be successful.”
The provider’s burgeoning channel program includes a deal based on residual commissions on connectivity services sold, as well as some upfront incentives, Uphoff said. He noted that the company’s strategy has been to target partners that have a large mid-market and regional enterprise customer base for Lumen. Partner self-service, he added, is another important factor in Brightspeed’s channel strategy.
“We are providing [partners] the self-service tools and access to the system that allows them to create solutions, quote prices and contract those solutions with the end customer”, he said. “The intent is to empower partners, rather than empower an indirect channel manager to do things on behalf of the partner.”
Brightspeed’s channel business, which includes a customer success team and sales operations staff, is focused on integration between the indirect side of the business and direct teams, Uphoff said. That’s because the customer experience, he said, is critical to the company’s success.
“We’re channel friendly and part of that is an integration strategy, but what we don’t want to do is build a huge indirect channel that stands between partner engagement and direct sales teams to come together and deliver a joint strategy to the end customer,” he said. “We are trying to remove layers in the channel.”
Brightspeed’s plan is to upgrade its ILEC assets with fiber and enable superior services such as SD-WAN and hosted VoIP, he said.
“Our product set will have a lot of focus and intensity around a very narrow product set,” Uphoff said. As more products come online, Brightspeed will roll out more training and certifications affiliated with those offerings, he added.