CenturyLink Gets FCC Approval To Buy Level 3, Partners 'Anxious' About Possible Channel Changes

CenturyLink received the final nod from the Federal Communications Commission on Monday for its $34 billion acquisition of fellow telecom provider Level 3, and channel partners are eager to learn what's next.

"We're glad that the approvals are there for the merger and we can move forward with new business, and we are anxious to see what, if any, changes there are to the channel program," said Shane Stark, director of vendor and channel relations for Carrier Access, a Clive, Iowa-based solution provider and CenturyLink Premier partner.

CenturyLink declined to comment on its channel strategy until the confirmed the official closing of the acquisition. The Monroe, La. carrier expects to announce the close of the deal on Wednesday, the same day it is scheduled to report its Q3 2017 earnings, CenturyLink told CRN.

[Related: DeLozier, Gee To Split Channel Chief Responsibilities For CenturyLink When Level 3 Acquisition Closes]

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While CenturyLink's post-acquisition leadership team include two CenturyLink veterans, the carrier will mainly be led by Level 3 executives. The companies announced in June that Broomfield, Colo.-based Level 3's CEO Jeff Storey would be succeeding CenturyLink's current CEO Glen post following his retirement and after the merger is complete, effective Jan. 1, 2019. Level 3's Senior Vice President of Wholesale and Alternate Channels and Asia Pac Region, Lisa Miller, will be heading up the combined carrier's wholesale and indirect business unit as president.

"Obviously, things are going to change some with Level 3 taking over," Stark said. "We'll see how that process is going to work out, but we are glad to see some [CenturyLink] channel execs staying on."

CenturyLink plans on splitting indirect channel responsibilities between its current channel chief, John DeLozier, and Level 3's channel leader Garret Gee, who will both report to Miller. As of Jan. 2018, DeLozier will be responsible for the combined company's top 25 strategic partners globally, which includes master agent partners such as Intelisys, Telarus, and WTG. Level 3's Gee, on the other hand, will be responsible for execution in the field, including sales within the company's territories.

Having two channel leaders may not be a long-term solution, according to one CenturyLink channel partner that asked not to be named. "I don't see the two cohabitating for a very long time," the solution provider executive said.

For CenturyLink partners right now, it's business as usual, CarrierAccess' Stark said. Once the merger is complete, however, solution providers will be able to reach more customers in new geographies.

Stark said that CarrierAccess is already in talks with a new client that is looking forward to the deal closing. "It won't happen overnight, but we're interested to see what the new year brings," he said.