With the growing proliferation of branch offices, IT and networking staffs are seeking help in implementing and managing those sites - and it\u2019s no wonder. End user expectations at branch offices are increasing, application servers are consolidating at the data center, and the network is becoming more and more vital to employee productivity.IT staffs spend 37% of their total staff time, on average, on managing remote offices, and much of that time involves troubleshooting access infrastructure, coordinating upgrades and new installations, and detecting the cause of poor application or network performance.Recent mergers and acquisitions activity among companies that specifically address this market should offer a nice alternative to the major carriers. More than half of IT executives say they\u2019re concerned about negative effects of major-carrier consolidation, and because of that, 76% of them say they are using or will consider alternative carriers.The acquisition of Megapath Networks by Netifice Communications, and iPass\u2019 acquisition of GoRemote Internet Communications, will more effectively help each of these providers compete with the major carriers.Netifice and Megapath will be able to offer the network infrastructure for broadband VPNs along with consistent service to all sizes of branch offices. IPass\/GoRemote, meanwhile, will focus more heavily on mobile and virtual workers in home offices and small branches.The question is whether IT executives will be equally concerned about the effects of these mergers as they are about mergers among major carriers. What are they worried about? Higher prices, slower innovation and declining customer service.Because the smaller organizations are more nimble, I don\u2019t expect those concerns to be as great in these cases. What\u2019s more, the alternative carriers realize that they have a window of opportunity now, and they need to continue to deliver the same performance that got them this far - solid customer service and innovative service offerings.Given the increased size of Megapath\/Netifice, you may want to consider them for your branch-office implementations and ongoing management needs. Rather than dealing with dozens or hundreds of carriers for local access nationwide, you can deal with one provider, which will find, install, and manage the lines for you - welcome simplicity in an increasingly complex communications world.