Qwest, CenturyLink Reach Settlement Agreement in Washington State

Washington state regulators may soon approve the pending merger between CenturyLink Inc. and Qwest Communications.

The companies on Wednesday announced reaching a settlement agreement concerning the merger with the staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission and the Public Counsel Section of the Washington State Attorney Generals Office.

The parties agreed to recommend that Washingtons regulatory commission approve the settlement, Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink and Denver-based Qwest announced in a joint news release. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, which is comprised of three commissioners, must review the settlement and has discretion to approve, reject or change the conditions. Hearings are scheduled for next week.

Under the agreement, CenturyLink and Qwest have agreed to invest at least $80 million in broadband infrastructure in Washington State over five years. 

The agreement also resolves certain retail and wholesale issues, freezes some rates for at least three years, and commits the merged company to provide regular updates and reports to the commission regarding the integration of the two companies,” the news release stated.

Earlier this month, Colorado and New Jersey regulators approved the merger between CenturyLink and Qwest.   

Excluding Washington state, CenturyLink and Qwest are still awaiting regulatory approval in five other states: Arizona, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon and Utah. The Federal Communications Commission also must approve the merger and is continuing to review the transaction, an FCC spokesperson confirmed.

The Department of Justice, Federal Trade Commission, and several states plus the District of Columbia already have approved the transaction.

CenturyLink and Qwest expect the merger to close during the first half of 2011. The combined company will provide communications services across 37 states. As of Sept. 30, 2010, the companies served a combined 15.7 million access lines and 5.3 million broadband customers.

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