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Conflict and Controversy: AT&T, CenturyLink, Windstream Create Channel Buzz

Surprised Businessman

Drama is never in short supply in the world of telecommunications and information technology — particularly in one of its important subsets, the channel.

Among the expected news of the day, like new hires, breaking M&A and changes in channel strategy, there also are controversies that get the channel talking. There have been quite a few in just the past few months.

Recent hubbub involves CenturyLink saying no to employee bonuses and raises while top executives helped themselves to high-dollar bonuses, unexpected layoffs at AT&T, and the shocking arrest of ConnectWise’s co-founder. A sudden channel-chief switch at Windstream and the unexpected departure of Equinix’s CEO also created buzz.

Click through the slides below to revisit the controversies and conflicts that have rocked the channel since last fall.

Windstream's Curt Allen
Windstream Channel Chief Shocker

In an unexpected move last fall, channel vet Curt Allen (pictured) emerged from retirement to take over as Windstream‘s channel chief, replacing Olen Scott, who took over the position last February. Scott became Windstream’s channel chief immediately after the company’s acquisition of EarthLink closed. He previously was EarthLink’s vice president of partner channels.
Tough Times for CenturyLink Workers

After canceling holiday bonuses, CenturyLink told employees it also was suspending merit raises this year. This followed the company confirming that it was laying off more than 150 employees after the November close of its $34 billion acquisition of Level 3 Communications.
Unsettling Rumors Spread Regarding CenturyLink-Level 3 Integration

Speaking of CenturyLink, earlier this month the company promised master-agency partners that the company’s integration with Level 3 Communications will not disrupt the partner experience. John DeLozier, vice president of strategic partners and alliances, addressed rumors that CenturyLink partners will have to adopt new rules of engagement and potentially lose accounts to direct sales.

“None of that is true,” DeLozier told an audience of Bridgepointe Technologies partners.
Sprint's Mishka Dehghan
New Year Layoffs at AT&T

AT&T began the new year by saying it will undergo a year of growth and investment following a year of innovation and legislative wins, but layoffs are part of the plan.

The Indy Star reported that the company also planned to lay off thousands of workers. The newspaper cited Communications Workers of America (CWA), one of the main unions associated with the company. The CWA said many of AT&T’s U-verse ad DirecTV technicians would lose their jobs.
Legacy Services Slowly Fading

Last summer, AT&T planned to discontinue copper landline phone service in Illinois, the latest of many states where it is doing away with the service. In a blog, Dave Talbott, AT&T’s assistant vice president of federal regulatory, said since 2012 consumers have doubled down on wireless and IP-based services, largely abandoning plain old telephone services (POTS) in favor of these newer services.

Also, Verizon last fall planned to discontinue four legacy DS0 services in parts of six states and New England, citing a dwindling number of users as customers migrate to more modern options.
ConnectWise Co-Founder Arrested

Earlier this month, ConnectWise co-founder David Bellini was arrested in Florida and faced charges of trafficking illegal drugs. Authorities then decided against pursuing charges against him due to "inaccurate reporting from the arresting officer."

Anxiety Over Cisco's BroadSoft Acquisition

Last fall, when Cisco announced its acquisition of BroadSoft, talk surfaced that it signaled the end of the on-prem world, stirring concerns in the channel. Scott Kinka, Evolve IP's CTO, then reassured our readers that the acquisition was good news and that premises-based PBX isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
Equinix CEO Unexpectedly Resigns

Equinix announced late last month that Steve Smith was leaving the organization. Smith resigned after what Equinix described as “exercising poor judgment with respect to an employee matter.”

Smith told the Mercury News that stepping down was a “difficult decision.” He didn’t clarify what prompted his resignation and said he had respect for his former employer and colleagues.

Slack Threatens to Upend UCaaS Channel

Reuters recently reported that Slack has surpassed 150 customers using its enterprise platform. Also, rumors have swirled about whether Amazon will buy Slack and expand its dominance. All of this has the channel buzzing about whether Slack poses a threat to their UC market share.
Partner Tug of War In UCaaS

In a recent Q&A, Zane Long, RingCentral’s vice president of global channel sales, said part of his national partner strategy involves actively stealing away legacy resellers from Avaya, Cisco and Mitel. These partners are looking to make a transition away from premises-based hardware and into the cloud, he said.
Aryaka Rains On VeloCloud's Parade

Last November, VMware announced it is buying VeloCloud, which Frost & Sullivan said has the largest share of the SD-WAN market at nearly 29.5 percent. Rival SD-WAN provider Aryaka Networks told Channel Partners that VeloCloud's "razor edge" focus likely will disappear and it is going to become "just one of the companies that VMware has."

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