Consumer Counsel agrees to settlement on Qwest-Century Link merger
By Mike Dennison,
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
HELENA — Qwest and CenturyLink, the two largest land-line telephone companies operating in Montana, have agreed to merger conditions endorsed by the Montana Consumer Counsel, likely paving the way for state regulatory approval of the companies' proposed merger.
The proposed agreement, filed late Tuesday with the state
Public Service Commission, requires the two companies to file
detailed information on their cost of service in
Until then, current telephone rates would remain in effect.
“It's intended to allow us to see at that point whether their rates continue to be just and reasonable,” said Mary Wright, an attorney with the Consumer Counsel, which represents consumers in utility issues before the PSC.
CenturyLink, based in
CenturyLink, which operates in 33 states, has 50,000 lines
A consultant hired by the Consumer
Counsel said in September that without the financial filing
requirements, CenturyLink and Qwest could realize substantial
savings from the merger and not pass those savings on to
“The Consumer Counsel had some suggestions on the merger and we thought they were pretty good ideas, and we've adopted almost everything they asked for,” he said.
Gibson said the state Department of
Administration also has signed off on the merger, as the
companies agreed on conditions to protect 911 emergency calling
“I think we have a lot of momentum here going,” Gibson said. “Hopefully it's pretty straightforward after this.”
The state PSC must decide whether to accept the various
agreements on the merger and grant its final approval. A hearing
on the Qwest-CenturyLink merger in
For the merger to go forward, the two companies need approval from utility regulators in the various affected states.
Qwest also has reached an agreement with Integra Telecom,
which operates a local telephone “exchange” or company in
Gibson said the agreement with Integra states that other local telecoms and cooperatives that buy wholesale space on Qwest or CenturyLink lines will get the same deal.
Once the merger is complete, Qwest will become a wholly owned subsidiary of CenturyLink, but current services and prices will remain the same, Gibson said.
It's not yet known whether the combined company will change its name, he said. The agreement with the Consumer Counsel says if any name-change occurs, affected customers will be notified.