FCC Decision on CenturyLink-Level 3 Likely Imminent

Deal watchers, including the companies involved, are 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 lats month as that date approached that it was moving that projection to mid-to-late October.

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 Inc. merger, it 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.

Related Article: Justice Okays CenturyLink/Level 3 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,” said CenturyLink SVP John F. Jones of the filing. “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.”

The deal combines Level 3's primarily business broadband and fiber backbone services with CenturyLink's consumer and business service to over six million customers.

Back in April—as the FCC prepared to vote on deregulating the businesses data services (BDS) market—the Wireline Competition Bureau asked for more information from ILEC CenturyLink and merger partner Level 3 on how their merger would affect competition for business services. It paused the deal clock the next month to review that data.

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.