FCC Approves CenturyLink-Level 3 Merger

The FCC has approved the CenturyLink-Level 3 merger.

The deal had already been approved by the Justice Department.

“The FCC’s approval of CenturyLink’s acquisition of Level 3 is great news and means we now have all the regulatory approvals we need to close the transaction,” said CenturyLink senior vice president for public policy and government relations John F. Jones. “We anticipate closing the transaction effective Nov. 1, 2017.”

Deal watchers, including the companies involved, were looking for a decision any day out of the FCC on CenturyLink's purchase of Level 3 Communications after the FCC restarted the unofficial 180-day shot clock on its vetting of the merger Oct. 6, with 170 days on the clock. At press time Friday (Oct. 20) the FCC was in day 184.

CenturyLink had projected an end-of-September close but signaled last month as that date approached that it was moving that projection to mid-to-late October. It turned out to be the latter.

The merger, which would boost CenturyLink’s enterprise and wholesale broadband business data services, was announced Oct. 31 of last year and applications were filed with the FCC and for antitrust review by the Department of Justice in December. The merger was valued at $34 billion including debt.

Along with the AT&T-Time Warner deal, CenturyLink-Level 3 is one of the first big media mergers to be vetted primarily under the Trump administration. President Trump has talked about reducing regulations, but also about blocking consolidation among media outlets.

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

The FCC order has yet to be released, but FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn confirmed she dissented from the decision for several reasons, including that she indicated it "radically alters the Commission’s long-standing merger review standards, resurrects a suspect market analysis from this year’s Business Data Services Order that substituted potential competition for actual competition, and ignores an entire portion of the market by failing to conduct a technology-neutral market analysis."

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.