Qwest, CenturyLink merger on the line for Colorado Public Utilities Commission

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Colorado's Public Utilities Commission is slated to sign off on Qwest's merger with CenturyLink today, a day after Montana became the fourteenth state to okay the deal, pushing memories of Mountain Bell even further down the line.

The PUC was initially scheduled to approve the merger last week, but all those Xcel hearings clogged the schedule.

And the PUC staff had already come to an agreement with CenturyLink and Qwest last month -- one that includes $70 million in infrastructure improvements (Montana gets $10 million).

Here's Qwest's announcement of that development from November 10:

MONROE, La., DENVER -- CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and Qwest Communications (NYSE: Q) have reached an agreement with the staff of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on the proposed merger of the two companies.

The staff finds that the merger is consistent with and "not contrary to" the public interest and that it should be approved by the PUC based on the terms and conditions in the agreement. The staff's recommendation is subject to review by the commission members.

The companies and the PUC staff agreed to a resolution of retail and wholesale issues, which includes the companies providing the PUC and staff with regular integration updates and reports. Additionally, the combined company will invest a minimum of $70 million in broadband infrastructure in Colorado over five years.

"We appreciate the PUC staff for recommending that the commission approve our merger," said Chuck Ward, Qwest Colorado president. "This agreement assures that Qwest's strong commitment to its retail and wholesale customers in Colorado will continue after our companies combine their operations."

"The commission staff has worked diligently to address the needs of Colorado consumers, and we appreciate their thoroughness in the review process," said John Jones, vice president of state government affairs for CenturyLink. "This agreement is another example of the increasing support the merger is receiving from various parties in multiple states."

CenturyLink and Qwest have received regulatory approval for their pending merger in 12 states and the District of Columbia. The companies must receive approvals from nine more states, including Colorado, and the Federal Communications Commission.

In addition to the Colorado PUC staff, CenturyLink and Qwest have reached a merger agreement with the Minnesota Department of Commerce. In Utah, the companies have agreements with the Utah Division of Public Utilities, the Utah Office of Consumer Services and the Salt Lake Community Action Program.

The companies also have resolved issues regarding wholesale services with Integra Telecom, a competitive local exchange carrier that is now withdrawing its opposition to the merger in Colorado, Minnesota, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington.

An agreement also was reached in Colorado, Arizona and Utah with the federal government that addresses the handling of merger-related costs. It also assures the companies will maintain high service quality and a sufficient number of employees with security clearances after the merger closes.

Last month, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) agreed that the merger is in the public interest and have withdrawn their previous opposition. Shareholders from both companies approved the merger in August.

CenturyLink and Qwest announced previously that after the transaction is completed, which is expected during the first half of 2011, Denver will be one of six nationwide regional headquarters planned for the combined company and the base for its Business Markets Group.

For more information about the merger, visit centurylinkqwestmerger.com.

About CenturyLink

CenturyLink is a leading provider of high-quality broadband, entertainment and voice services over its advanced communications networks to consumers and businesses in 33 states. CenturyLink, headquartered in Monroe, La., is an S&P 500 company and is included among the Fortune 500 list of America's largest corporations. For more information on CenturyLink, visit www.centurylink.com.

About Qwest

Customers coast to coast turn to Qwest's industry-leading national fiber-optic network and world-class customer service to meet their communications and entertainment needs. For residential customers, Qwest offers a new generation of fiber-optic-fast Internet service, high-speed Internet solutions, as well as home phone, Verizon Wireless, and DIRECTV® services. Fortune 500 companies and other large businesses and wholesale customers, as well as small businesses and governmental agencies choose Qwest to deliver a full suite of network, data and voice services. Additionally, Qwest participates in Networx, the largest communications services contract in the world and is recognized as a leader in the network services market by leading technology industry analyst firms.

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