CenturyLink-Level 3 Merger Gets First State Approvals

Ohio, Utah and Nevada are the first states to sign off on the merger of broadband providers CenturyLink and Level 3 Communications, according to CenturyLink.

The merger is valued at $34 billion including debt.

“We continue to believe that policymakers, interested in advancing their states in an evolving internet economy, recognize that strong networks are key to our country’s future economic development, job creation and ability to stay connected," said CenturyLink senior VP John Jones.

The merger was announced Oct. 31, and applications were filed with the FCC and for antitrust review by the Department of Justice in December.

The deal also has to be approved by the shareholders. A vote is scheduled for March 16. The companies have said they expect the deal to close by the third quarter of this year. CenturyLink president Glen Post will be president of the combined company.

Along with the AT&T-Time Warner merger, it will be one of the first big media mergers to be vetted primarily under the Donald Trump Administration. Trump has talked about reducing regs but also about blocking consolidation among media outlets.

The FTC or DOJ—they divide those reviews but DOJ almost always handles media mergers—will vet the deal for antitrust issues and either give it a green light, a green light with conditions agreed to by the parties, or file suit to block it.

The FCC will vet the deal for public interest issues that go beyond a straight antitrust review but will look at competition issues as well and consult with DOJ—they coordinate their reviews and stay in touch.

As the companies pointed out, that is the first regulatory step toward the merger.

Among the pro-consumer benefits the companies are touting are better service, more competition, more broadband deployment, and investment.

“Faster, more secure and more reliable networks are crucial to the future for economic development, job creation and staying connected to a global economy,” Jones said back when the deal was filed with regulators.

"Combining CenturyLink with Level 3 will provide customers with state-of-the-art services over a global platform that meets their growing demand for bandwidth, helps them manage today’s complex communication services and provides them with more robust cybersecurity protections. This merger will help us compete more effectively, thus increasing opportunities for our customers, employees and the communities we serve.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.