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January’s Top 12: Windstream Bonuses, AT&T Layoffs, Bankruptcy

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2020 started off with a bang as you lined up to read about some pretty controversial doings in the channel.

Still muddling its way through chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Windstream caught the ire of those who think $19 million in bonuses to a handful of key executives is a little much. AT&T got on its union’s bad side with another chunk of layoffs as it continues to modernize its network. And CenturyLink paid up some hefty settlements due to what some state attorneys general describe as “deceptive” practices. Verizon discontinued more copper facilities in one of the largest states of the union and Avaya’s shift to the cloud means cutting off sales of a popular product.

But not all of the news was that edgy. Telarus makes our list for a number of key hires, most notably bringing in a UC and contact center expert who used to work for a rival.

But which story was No. 1?

Our top 12, outlined in the gallery below, is a collection of those articles and features that drew the most traffic to our site and performed best in our weekly newsletters. If you haven’t signed up for that yet, what’s stopping you?

Missed the previous month’s top stories? Click here to see our most-read posts in December or here for our top stories of 2019.

Follow executive editor @Craig_Galbraith on Twitter.

Datapipe's Robb Allen
#12 — CenturyLink Pays for 'Deceptive' Practices

CenturyLink has started the year paying out settlements with various states in response to investigations into consumer complaints and allegations of deceptive billing practices.

This one involved a $4 million settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice. The attorney general there said CenturyLink engaged in deceptive advertising by door-to-door salespeople, deceptive billing practices, undisclosed fees, and failed to apply promised discounts to customer accounts.

A CenturyLink spokesman told Channel Partners that while his company disagrees with the attorney general’s position, “we believe it is in the best interests of our company and our customers to amicably resolve these matters.”
Sundstrom, Sam_CenturyLink 2020
#11 — Star2Star Snags ScanSource Channel Vet

Star2Star made a big hire last month when it grabbed Rich Long, well-known in the channel from his days at ScanSource, to be its new senior VP of channel development.

"Star2Star was built from the beginning to cater to multiple different types of models and in particular the models where the partners can play a role in the implementation, the support, the pre- and post-sales delivery — and so it’s kind of the best of both worlds," Long told Channel Partners, explaining why the company was a good fit for him.

Read the full Q&A.
Juniper Networks' Gordon Mackintosh
#10 — Channel People on the Move

Bill Hooper (pictured above) was one of 16 people we squeezed into this edition of our monthly Channel People on the Move image gallery. Companies represented this time around included Avaya, Vonage, CenturyLink and Broadvoice, to name a few.
Star2Star's Josh Long
#9 — UC Predictions and Trends for 2020

We all know there's nothing hotter in the channel than unified communications, so when we posted a compilation of predictions and trends for the new year that could be applicable to your business, you jumped all over it.

We polled channel leaders from RingCentral, Mitel and Intermedia, as well as two leading analysts to get their thoughts on UC in the year ahead.
Star2Star's Josh Long
#8 — Fusion Connect Exits Bankruptcy

A little more than seven months after entering chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Fusion Connect, the business phone, network and cloud solutions provider, put that in the rearview mirror in the hopes it will emerge a stronger company than before.

The company filed chapter 11 bankruptcy last summer after its acquisitions of MegaPath and Birch Communications’ cloud and business-services business failed to meet performance projections. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved Fusion's move in mid-December, paving the way for its full emergence last month.

Here's how it all went down.
TPx's Steve Farmiloe
#7 — T-Mobile-Sprint Drags On

All eyes in the telecom world are on T-Mobile and Sprint as they try to get final regulatory approvals for their mega-merger.

But last month we told you how the merger must still clear regulatory approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) — no small feat. The companies filed their merger with the CPUC in July 2018, but the organization continues to mull over its decision. It's a decision that could drag on into summer.

Get the latest update.
Anexinet's Suzanne Lentz
#6 — Telarus Hires

There's little doubt that Telarus is one of the fastest-growing master agencies in the business, as evidenced by its stream of new hires in recent months.

This story on a pair of new partner development managers on opposite ends of the country was very popular on our site in January, as was this one on former Intelisys exec Brandon Knight returning to the master-agent channel, only this time with the Utah-based agency.
Exclusive Networks personnel
#5 — Windstream Gives Big Exec Bonuses

Windstream drew some people's ire when it said it would give $19 million in bonuses to its top executives, despite the fact the business communications giant is in the midst of a bankruptcy. A bankruptcy judge approved the request.

There's some irony here, as part of the reason Windstream asked for the bonuses is due to the “severe business pressures as a function of the highly competitive landscape for telecommunications providers generally, as well as the challenges inherent to operating any business in chapter 11.”

Get more information on how Windstream's bankruptcy is progressing.
Exclusive Networks personnel
#4 — Avaya Ends IP Office Sales

Avaya took another big step into the cloud by saying it would end sales of its Powered by Avaya IP Office solution for partners and customers.

The company, which is hosting its Engage event in Phoenix this week, is focusing its efforts on Avaya Cloud Office, which it says will provide customers with a “truly differentiated world-class” UCaaS solution, said Dennis Kozak, senior vice president of business transformation.

Avaya is rolling out Cloud Office as part of a huge new RingCentral partnership, announced last fall.

Get the full scoop on a move that's sure to drive strong feelings among its partner community.
Mosaic Networx's Seema Chiodo
#3 — Verizon Discontinues Copper in New York

When the big telcos say they're leaving copper in the dust in another section of the country, it tends to catch your eye. When it's in a heavily populated part of New York, you've got both eyes wide open.

That was the case with this story about Verizon, which said it would retire copper facilities and replace them with fiber facilities to provide services over its fiber-to-the-premises network infrastructure — that according to its FCC filing. It plans to do so in various parts of New York state on or after April 10.

Verizon says fiber is the future, but moves like these raise concerns as well.
Vonage's Matt Alexander
#2 — AT&T Layoffs: 'No Place Is Safe'

This isn't the first time we've reported layoffs at AT&T at the beginning of the year.

Thousands of AT&T employees will be hunting for new jobs after being assigned to train their own foreign replacements, according to a report by Axios, Many of the workers have been with AT&T for more than a decade, but won’t be getting severance or early retirement, and may not easily find a comparable job elsewhere with similar pay, it said.

AT&T COO John Stankey recently said AT&T will decrease labor costs in 2020, but didn’t say if that will include layoffs or job freezes. Noting, however, that every part of the business needs to be scrutinized, Stankey told an investor conference that “no place is safe."

“We are continuously working to make our operations more efficient,” Marty Richter, an AT&T spokesman, told Channel Partners.

Learn more about the layoffs.
TPx's Steve Farmiloe
#1 — Frontier Bankruptcy 'Only Way Out'

It's no secret that Frontier Communications, the provider of telecom services in 29 states, is mulling filing for bankruptcy as it struggles with a $17.5 billion debt load.

A Bloomberg report, citing people "with knowledge of the matter," said the company is asking creditors to help craft a turnaround deal that includes filing for bankruptcy by the middle of March,

“Given their debt, it seems likely that bankruptcy is the only way out of their current state,” Mike Sapien, Ovum’s vice president and chief analyst of enterprise services, told Channel Partners. 

Sapien cited Frontier’s customer service reputation as “very poor,” adding to the company's strain.

Read more about Frontier's struggles.

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