CenturyLink and Qwest Communications said they have reached an agreement on wholesale conditions with Cox Communications -- which is a customer of Qwest -- that resolves concerns the MSO raised about the companies' pending merger in Arizona and Nebraska.
In April, CenturyLink announced a bid to acquire Qwest -- to create a stronger No. 3 telco in the U.S., behind AT&T and Verizon Communications -- in a proposed $10.6 billion stock-swap.
Cox, as a result of the agreement with CenturyLink and Qwest, "acknowledges the merger is in the public interest and that it should be approved in state proceedings," according to a statement from the companies. The parties did not release terms of the agreement.
"We are pleased that Cox will not oppose our merger and finds that it is in the public interest," CenturyLink president of wholesale operations Bill Cheek said in a statement. "Cox is a significant interconnecting network customer of Qwest, and we look forward to continuing an effective working relationship after the transaction is completed."
The companies anticipate closing the transaction in the first half of 2011.
CenturyLink and Qwest said they have received more than half of the state regulatory approvals needed to complete the transaction. They have received approvals of 12 states and the District of Columbia. The companies also must receive approvals from nine additional states and the Federal Communications Commission.
In addition to Cox, the companies have reached agreements with other competitive local exchange carriers, including Integra Telecom.
As of Sept. 30, 2010, CenturyLink and Qwest together had about 15.7 million access lines and 5.3 million broadband customers. At the end of 2009 Qwest had 30,138 employees and CenturyLink had 20,200.
CenturyLink, previously CenturyTel, last year acquired Embarq, the former local telephone operations of Sprint.