Top 100: CenturyLink moves forward post Level 3 integration

With the Level 3 integration behind it and EIS opportunities on the horizon, CenturyLink looks for more growth in the federal market.

After its $34 billion acquisition of Level 3 Communications at the end of 2017, CenturyLink spent much of 2018 blending the two companies together. The result is a 45,000-person, $23.4 billion company that recently became the first supplier to receive an authority to operate (ATO) under the General Services Administration’s $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) program.

“We worked really hard to understand our best-in-breed practices from both companies and to make sure that we were picking up the right methods to operate in the marketplace, because both have a very rich history of dealing with the government,” said David Young, who was promoted to senior vice president of CenturyLink’s strategic government group last year. “We have a deeper cybersecurity product portfolio. We do data analytics. We run one of the world’s largest IP networks. Our ability to put all of that together for our customers in one year has been a pretty incredible journey for us, and our customers rewarded us with business.”

Most notable among that new business for the company, which held onto its position as No. 29 on this year’s Top 100 list, is winning a spot on EIS and earning an ATO under the $50 billion Alliant 2 governmentwide acquisition contract.

In April, CenturyLink announced that it won the first task order awarded under EIS to provide core backbone network services with speeds of up to 100 Gbps to NASA for a nine-and-a-half-year period. The company is one of a few with approval to move forward with EIS.

Through Alliant 2, CenturyLink offers cybersecurity solutions, Internet of Things-integrated smart sensors, and on-demand servers and managed storage that support disaster recovery solutions.

The government sector also has a portfolio based on its role as a subcontractor, particularly in the defense industry.

“We have a somewhat unique model in the government space and that is we focus not on just the prime contract vehicles, but we also are very comfortable as a subcontractor,” Young said. “We have a whole market set up to go and work with the Defense Industrial Base,” a sector that enables research and development plus design, production, delivery and maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems and components.

He also credits the channel’s success to support from the overall corporation. As CenturyLink was reforming last year after the acquisition, it chose five centers of excellence to focus on, one of which was federal business.

“For the company itself to embrace the federal marketplace is really powerful,” Young said. “Getting the resources from the company, whether it’s people or capital or IT systems is much easier if the whole company understands the importance of the marketplace.”

With the integration and ATOs settled, Young is turning his attention to areas of opportunity. Overall, the company is focusing on adaptive networking with fiber at the core of that. The idea is to build the infrastructure that future communications such as 5G require. The company already operates more than 450,000 route miles of fiber globally.

From a marketplace perspective, the sector invested hundreds of millions of dollars on extending the fiber infrastructure into government facilities. “That’s really part of our equation of the customer experience because our ability to deliver service and our ability to repair service is greatly improved when we can control the end-to-end environment, and so we’re willing to spend money wherever the government says we can bring fiber to them,” Young said.

That makes the government’s IT modernization efforts an opportunity for CenturyLink. As agencies modernize financial and reporting systems, for example, suddenly there’s a flood of traffic on the network. Without modernization, the infrastructure the app is running on can’t handle the added stress, performance degrades and users get frustrated, Young said.

What’s more, the company is looking to build new networking products on top of the fiber foundation, such as cloud or hybrid local-area networks – anything that enables more efficiency, he said. “As we build up the stack, it enables all of those efficiencies that we see in that IT modernization model,” he said.

The company’s major challenge has been moving forward with EIS. GSA’s process was slower than expected, but more solicitations will likely roll in this summer.

Looking ahead, EIS and Alliant 2 will help expand CenturyLink’s brand. As the company grows in cybersecurity, cloud and data analytics, Alliant 2 will kick in be a channel for opportunities, Young said.

“We are actively pursuing parts of the market that we have traditionally not been in, and so my belief is that we’re going to see some of our unique solutions be rewarded with awards on EIS,” he said. “I think the next place as I look into 2020 is really about Alliant 2.”

On the defense side, he said the company is gearing up to better serve the Defense Information Systems Agency, which uses EIS.

“It’s a really exciting time to be involved with the government,” Young said.