CenturyLink Channel Plan Due Year End

The respective channel programs of the newly combined CenturyLink Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc. will remain separate, with plans for their integration expected before the end of the year, according to Blake Wetzel, the new CenturyLink channel chief.

On day one, we are going to keep the programs separate,” Wetzel said. We are going to let the programs run independently because, obviously, this is something that we need to figure out.”

Wetzel, who ran the Qwest Business Partner Program as its vice president of sales for the Qwest Business Partner Program since August 2009, said joint rules of engagement for the two programs will be released in the next few days.”

However, he expects to spend the next six months working on an integration plan with his counterpart at CenturyLink, Jeff Painting, vice president, business sales and care. Brett Theiss, director of sales planning, operations and channel partners, reports to Painting. Historically, CenturyLink has not had an individual like Wetzel who is solely focused on the indirect channel. Our experience with indirect channels is a level of expertise that we bring to the table,” Wetzel said.

Painting reports to Karen Puckett, CenturyLinks COO and executive vice president, who oversees the local/regional strategy serving small and medium businesses. Wetzel, however, reports to Chris Ancell, a Qwest alum who now serves as CenturyLinks president of the Business Markets Group, which focuses on enterprise customers.

Wetzel was unable to offer few additional details about what that combined channel program might look like. However, he said that his former QBPP directors are coming over to CenturyLink as his leadership team. In addition, he indicated there was limited overlap among the partners in each telcos program though he said the exact numbers were unknown because the companies have been barred from sharing that kind of information until the transaction closed.

The CenturyLink-Qwest acquisition was completed April 1, creating the third largest telecom provider in the nation with operations in 37 states. The combined company generated 2010 revenues of $18.6 billion on a pro forma basis.  And based on the companies financials as of Dec. 31, 2010, CenturyLink will serve 5.3 million broadband customers, 15.4 million access lines, 1.628 million video subscribers and 1 million wireless customers. 

We are doubling the network across the country. We are getting a much deeper access strategy,” Wetzel noted as key benefits to agents.

The cultures are very similar,” he added. We both have a culture around customer and customer service. There are not a lot of hurdles that we have to overcome with the two cultures coming together”

Wetzel added that with nearly equal representation from both companies on the management team, he is expecting the transition to be simplified.

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