**Editor's Note: Please click here for a recap of the biggest channel-impacting mergers in Q1 2013.**
Birch Communications has purchased another long-time reseller, Ernest Communications.
Birch, a CLEC that is transforming itself from a provider of legacy services to one that offers IP communications and cloud services to SMBs, just snapped up struggling Lightyear Network Services, also a telecom-services reseller.
The Birch-Ernest deal was announced on Monday and marks Birch's 19th acquisition since 2006. Details were not disclosed, since both companies are privately held; however, the transaction should close in the third quarter. Once that happens, Birch will cover all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Paul Masters, president of Ernest, said Ernest's clients will benefit from Birch's network reach and resources. Plus, he said, "Our two companies are similarly aligned in culture and values. ... Ernest would not have made this move unless we felt the ultimate benefit would be to our clients and sales partners."
To that point, Chris Ramsey, senior vice president and chief sales and marketing officer for Birch, said, "We look forward to welcoming many of the Ernest sales partners into the Birch family. We are committed to making this merger a smooth transition for all."
Ernest was incorporated in 1998 but the company's roots date back to 1984, the year of divestiture. Its business model mirrored that of other firms that popped up after the 1996 Telecom Act, reselling other providers' services to multilocation businesses.