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Colorado regulators OK Qwest merger

 

By Andy Vuong
The Denver Post

December 15, 2010

Colorado regulators today approved the proposed merger between telephone and broadband service providers Qwest and CenturyLink.

The three-member Colorado Public Utilities Commission rejected a request by state consumer advocates to implement higher service quality benchmarks and potential penalties as a condition of approval.

The Office of Consumer Counsel raised concerns that service could worsen because the companies have indicated the merger would allow them to shave $575 million in annual operating costs.

PUC Chairman Ron Binz noted that Qwest's customer service has improved in recent years. He also agreed with the position of the PUC staff that there is adequate competition to incent Denver-based Qwest and Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink to maintain service levels.

"I don't perceive that there's a problem that needs fixing," Binz said during deliberations.

The commissioners voted 2-1 to include a condition requesting that the combined company's corporate giving in Colorado during the first three years after the merger stays above its mark from 2007, 2008 and 2009.

CenturyLink announced plans in April to acquire Qwest for $22 billion in stock and assumed debt.

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2011. It still requires approval from several states and the Federal Communications Commission.

Andy Vuong: 303-954-1209, avuong@denverpost.com or twitter.com/andyvuong