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Public comments invited on Qwest, CenturyLink merger

Washington's Utilities and Transportation Committee (UTC) has scheduled a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday (Jan. 5) for people to comment on the proposed merger of CenturyLink and Qwest.

The hearing will be in the second-floor hearing room at the UTC’s Richard Hemstad Building headquarters, 1300 S. Evergreen Park Dr. S.W., Olympia.

The meeting allows for phone customers, either business or residential, to comment on the proposed merger.

It also allows for comments on a Washington state settlement negotiated recently. That settlement has several provisions to shield customers from being harmed by this transaction. These include: 

  • Capping local telephone residential rates for at least three years after the sale closes.
  • Making broadband Internet service available to more customers.
  • Preventing the new company from passing on merger costs to ratepayers.
  • Reporting merger savings to the UTC.
  • Submitting detailed plans to UTC staff before transitioning to any new operations systems that affect customer services like billing or filling new phone orders.

A UTC press release also noted one extra provision in the settlement calls for establishing added service quality protections such as increasing credits for missed repair or installation appointments or for failing to offer appropriate discounts or deposit waivers to low-income customers who qualify for phone service through the Washington Telephone Assistance Program. 

Last April, CenturyLink and Qwest announced an agreement in which CenturyLink would acquire Qwest’s entire business, including 10.3 million landline phone lines as part of a $10.6 billion merger. Shareholders from each company approved the merger in August.

The Department of Justice has approved the transaction, and the Federal Communications Commission is still reviewing it. Government regulatory approval is needed in 21 states. California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia have already approved the business deal.

Tom Sowa
Tom Sowa covers technology, retail and economic development and writes the Office Hours blog.