Washington state utility regulators Monday approved the merger of the state's largest phone provider, Qwest Communications, into Louisiana-based CenturyLink Inc.
The approval by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission was subject to six conditions: Local residential rates were capped for three years after the sale. The combined companies are to invest $80 million to widen broadband Internet coverage to rural customers.
The companies cannot pass merger costs to ratepayers. Merger savings are to be reported to the UTC. The combined company must reduce rates charged to other carriers for in-state calls. The new company must submit plans for new computer operating systems that affect customer service to the UTC for review.
The two companies agreed to merge nearly a year ago in a $10.6 billion deal. That deal is subject to approval from state regulators in 20 states and from the Federal Communications Commission. With Washington’s approval, 19 states have approved. Only Oregon and the FCC’s approvals are pending.
CenturyLink is the third-largest phone company in the state, serving customers in such communities as Gig Harbor, Fox Island, Vashon, Carnation, North Bend and many others.