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Newcomer Brightspeed Packs Large Telco Capabilities In A ‘Startup’ Package For Partners

Gina Narcisi

‘It truly is a startup company with significant assets in the eastern U.S. and that Greenfield mentality permeates everything we do. We’re building the best-in-class indirect channel that’s unencumbered by legacy processes and policies,’ Brightspeed’s Channel Chief Bob Uphoff tells CRN in an interview.

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Bob Uphoff

Brightspeed, an incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) business that got its start this fall, has designs on the channel being a critical part of its business strategy.

“The indirect channel is a critical element of our distribution strategy moving forward,” Bob Uphoff, Brightspeed’s director of business development for 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 large company assets and capabilities coupled with a startup-like culture that’s intent on empowering partners in a self-service format, Uphoff said. “What that means is, 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’ll do that with partners.”

[Related: Lumen Receives FCC Approval For $7.5B ILEC Business Sale ]

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in August granted approval 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, a company created by Apollo Global Management. Via the terms of the deal, the investment management firm agreed to acquire Lumen’s ILEC business, which includes its consumer, small business, wholesale and mostly copper-served enterprise customers and assets with which to launch Brightspeed in October.

Just a couple of months in, Charlotte, N.C.-based Brightspeed is now the fifth largest ILEC nationwide. The company reaches more than 6.5 million homes across the Midwest, Southeast and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey — 20 states in all.

Historically, when ILEC assets are spun off, they are sold to and integrated into a company with existing indirect policies, practices and culture. But Brightspeed is a new company offering a greenfield opportunity, Uphoff said.

“It truly is a startup company with significant assets in the eastern U.S. and that Greenfield mentality permeates everything we do. We’re building the best-in-class indirect channel that’s unencumbered by legacy processes and policies,” he said. “This is very unique for a company in our industry.”

The provider gained about 25 legacy Lumen channel partners after the acquisition, a third of which Brightspeed has established partner agreements so far, Uphoff said. Brightspeed is also working to reach more partners through relationships with several telecom service brokers and distributors, including TBI and Telarus.

Brightspeed won’t be bogged down with the reputation that an existing company carries, said Tim Basa, senior vice president of sales for Sandy, Utah-based Brightspeed partner Telarus.

The channel is eagerly awaiting to see how Brightspeed is going to use its strong assets to carve out a niche in the telecom market, Basa said. For example, the new provider can come in and put their flag in the ground with services in tier two markets outside of major metros, something they’ve already begun doing, or by offering engineered solutions for a particular subset of customers, such as small businesses or medium enterprises — the places in which many channel partners play, Basa said.

“That’s where they’ll 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 clients conquer challenges and achieve goals, so if Brightspeed delivers that to the market, they’re going to be successful.”

The provider’s burgeoning channel program includes a residual commission-based agreement 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 base of regional enterprise and midmarket Lumen customers. Partner self-service, he added, is another important factor in Brightspeed’s channel strategy.

“We are providing to [partners] the self-service tools and access to the system that empowers them to build solutions, price quote, 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 team of customer success and sales operations staff, is focused on integration between the indirect side of the business and direct teams, Uphoff said. That’s because customer experience, he said, is critical to the company’s success.

“We’re channel friendly and part of that is a strategy of integration, but what we don’t want to do is build a large indirect channel that stands between the engagement of the partner and the direct sales teams to come together and offer a joint strategy to the end customer,” he said. “We’re trying to eliminate layers in the channel.”

Brightspeed’s plan is to upgrade its ILEC assets with fiber and enable over the top 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 trainings and certifications affiliated with those offerings, he added.   

Gina Narcisi

Gina Narcisi is a senior editor covering the networking and telecom markets for CRN.com. Prior to joining CRN, she covered the networking, unified communications and cloud space for TechTarget. She can be reached at gnarcisi@thechannelcompany.com.

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