CenturyLink's vow: ‘Business as usual'
in Monroe, La., a city of about 50,000 in the northeast quadrant
of the Bayou State. Large regional offices will be in
ONLY IN THE WORLD-HERALD
CenturyLink on Friday is set to become the largest
telecommunications provider in
The deal, which has cleared all the necessary regulatory hurdles, is valued at $22.4 billion and will be executed through a $10.6 billion stock swap and the assumption of $11.8 million in Qwest debt.
To a majority of Midlanders, CenturyLink comes in as a largely unknown commodity.
Some Nebraskans already are troubled by the company's plans to rename the Qwest Center Omaha.
actually never heard of CenturyLink,” said Erin Sorensen, 23, of
To the general public, the downtown sign changes will be the most noticeable differences brought by the merger. But there will be others.
Customers and employees of the merged company can expect more local decision-making about their phone and Internet services, more initiatives to increase Internet access, possibly fewer jobs based here long-term and a generally lower corporate presence locally.
“We are in
for a surprise,” said Anne Boyle,
CenturyLink has never had major operations in
merger closes, Qwest residential and business customers won't
see a difference in service, customer support or billing, said
Danny Pate, who will be the merged company's vice president and
general manager for
“It's business as usual for the customers of both CenturyLink and Qwest,” Pate said in a statement. “Our customers should continue to use our services and contact us just the same way they always have.”
Qwest and CenturyLink will continue to operate independently, just under one name. And the same Qwest network will continue powering landline phone, broadband and wholesale services.
The enlarged company also will begin to install a regional operating structure that puts marketing, pricing and infrastructure decisions closer to the community.
model, Pate said, instead of orders trickling down from Qwest's
corporate offices in
condition of the deal, CenturyLink over the next five years will
spend $10 million in
likely to see changes are in north-central and northwestern
CenturyLink also agreed to terms imposed by the Federal Communications Commission that will have the company expand Qwest's existing network so significantly more customers, businesses, schools and hospitals can access high-speed Internet.
“The commitments to broadband build-out are going to be the biggest thing you're going to see,” Hand said.
CenturyLink also will offer broadband access to low-income homes for less than $10 per month on subsidized computers it will sell for $150. Those terms will help increase broadband adoption rates, Hand said.
However, he and FCC regulators remain concerned about the seven-year timeline for CenturyLink to make the changes and about the ability of regulatory bodies to properly monitor the commitments.
area of concern is how the 1,250 Qwest employees in
CenturyLink told the Iowa Utilities Board that as long as
customer counts stay put, so should customer-related jobs. The
company didn't make the same promises to
The company has said some jobs will be eliminated after the merger because of overlapping positions.
“We have many employees who've been with us for several decades and will continue with the new company,” Pate said. “As technology evolves, the needs of the business evolve, too.”
Boyle said she's also concerned that CenturyLink will create headaches for businesses and residents who move and want to keep their old contact information.
Boyle said she has heard from state commissioners in areas where CenturyLink is operating that some customers there had issues with porting over of phone numbers.
Before CenturyLink's hearing with the Nebraska PSC, Boyle requested that a representative from the company be at the meeting to comment about how the company planned to solve the porting issues. Karen Puckett, CenturyLink's chief operations officer met with Boyle prior to the meeting, but no CenturyLink representative was at the meeting to give on-the-record answers.
“When they didn't do the one thing that was most important to us, it put up a red flag,” Boyle said.
In terms of complaint records, checks with two other states, Florida and North Carolina — CenturyLink's largest operating states after it acquired Embarq — indicate that customer service complaint numbers dropped after CenturyLink took control.
In Florida, AT&T operates about 2.5 times as many access lines as CenturyLink but recorded about eight times as many complaints each of the last two years when the Embarq lines were owned by CenturyLink.
Still, compared with AT&T, which operates the most lines in the state, CenturyLink's ratio of complaints per access line is lower.
“I saw no
major change in service or anything,” said Todd Brown, a
company is expected to waste no time trying to win over its
CenturyLink's home base in northeast
There's a significant agricultural base for commodities like cotton and sweet potatoes. Hunting is a favorite recreational activity. And with three universities within a 35-mile radius, college athletics are king.
some major corporations in
CenturyLink doing for
Hurricane Katrina struck
“They are very commited to the community,” she said.
retired from the telecom to help the athletic department at
nearby University of Louisiana-Monroe with its finances. Since
then, he's remained on CenturyLink's board and now is a
consultant for a financial planning and investment firm in
parents are both from the Midwest, and I find there are a lot of
similarities in terms of the Midwest and
“The accents are a little different, but the people are a lot alike.”
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