As the cable industry grows more competitive within the channel, Charter Business has recruited a well-known figure — Michael Fair — as head of its partner program. Fair serves as vice president of channel sales and national accounts, a role he has held since March. Fair takes the reins from David Neely, who was instrumental in establishing the partner program and will continue in a leadership role with both the partner program and national accounts, reporting to Fair.
Fair came to the post after leading the One Communications agent program for three years, before that company was purchased by EarthLink Business in Spring 2011. Previously, Fair spent a decade with MarketRace Consulting, a firm he founded to provide channel management consulting. As part of his new job, Fair is expanding Charter Business's two-year-old partner program; his tasks include adding VARs to the company's sales ranks.
Channel Partners interviewed Fair in early July. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.
How is running a cable partner program different from running its CLEC counterpart?
Depending on the functional area, running a cable partner program can be very similar to running a CLEC program, or, it can be very different.
Charter Business only sells services within our chartered franchise geographies. With cable services, there is no resale of local access of another carrier. Effectively, our services are all on-net. Our network is uniquely our own and therefore represents a separate network from traditional telecom providers. We do not compete with other cable providers.
Our program is similar to other programs in that we work with national master agents, regional masters and direct partners. Service availability within our franchised geography is the most unique aspect of working with a cable provider. Due to the nature of our networks, we may or may not have service available at any given location. This is different than dealing with ILECs or CLECs, which tend to resell one another and therefore may appear to have broader service availability.
What types of partners are you recruiting?
We are actively targeting VARs, recognizing that we most likely will sign few to a direct contract. We are proponents of the master agent model and already have contracts and activity with most of the national master agents. Regarding VARs, we will work with VARs through master agents as they are better suited to manage and train the large number of VARs looking to sell communications services as they move toward cloud computing.