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Merger might not boost phone rates in Franklin County area


By Marcus Rauhut, Staff writer

Chambersburg Public Opinion

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Local CenturyLink customers should not see an initial rate increase if a merger with Qwest Communications is approved.

CenturyLink agreed to not ask for a rate increase when it makes its annual rate filings in September 2011 and September 2012 as part of a settlement agreement in the merger application.

CenturyLink, the local exchange carrier formerly known as Embarq, wants to acquire Qwest Communications.

The Pennsylvania Office of the Consumer Advocate and the Office of Small Business Advocate filed petitions that raised concerns about the proposed deal, but have since reached a settlement that spelled out a number of conditions.

"With those conditions, we think it will be a benefit to customers," said Sonny Popowski, the Pennsylvania Consumer Advocate. "There are some benefits from the merger in terms of locking in basic rates at their current levels and accelerating some of the broadband commitments. They're providing broadband to some rural communities a little more quickly. And there's also some service quality monitoring they agreed to."

It's still too early to tell what the name of the combined company will be. More details will be forthcoming once the acquisition closes, which is expected to happen in the first half of 2011.

Pennsylvania regulators will likely approve the merger between CenturyLink and Qwest Communications.

Mergers and consolidations are becoming more common among the smaller companies in the telecommunications

industry, Popowski said.

If approved, the CenturyLink-Qwest deal would create a national telecommunications company with a presence in 37 states.

The acquisition has already been approved by shareholders, the Federal Trade Commission, and a number of states in which the companies operate.