After pledging to boost broadband penetration and improve wholesale and interconnection practices, regional wireline phone service provider CenturyTel received FCC approval late last week for its planned $11.6 billion acquisition of its larger rival Embarq Corp., subject to conditions that require the post-merger company to abide by the voluntary commitments that were outlined in a letter filed with the FCC on June 22. Announced last October, the stock and debt transaction combines the fourth and seventh largest landline phone carriers in the U.S. Dubbed “CenturyLink,” the combined entity would boast nearly 7.8 million switched access lines and two million broadband customers across 33 states, and is poised to generate annual revenues in excess of $8.8 billion. Addressing concerns raised by competitors, the merger partners pledged last week to apply Embarq service levels and automated processes across the combined company and to streamline agreements that pertain to number porting and interconnection. The companies also promised to offer minimum broadband speeds of 3 Mbps in 80 percent of their combined service territory within three years of the merger’s consummation and minimum speeds of 1.5 Mbps to 87 percent of that region within the first two years. In one of his last acts at the FCC, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein voted in favor of the merger, proclaiming that the companies’ commitments “go far toward bringing broadband and all of its economic opportunities to those the company will serve in rural America.” While applauding the companies’ broadband pledge as one that “goes significantly beyond the commitments of previous mergers,” acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps stipulated that the condition “should be regarded by no one as a standard or indicative of what to expect from the Commission when it considers future mergers, or, for that matter, the national broadband plan that the Commission is currently pursuing.” While approving the transaction, Commissioner Robert McDowell voiced some reservations, as he argued that merger conditions “should be narrowly tailored to remedy only mergerspecific harms, not to implement policies that are better addressed in a rulemaking” proceeding. As CenturyTel Chairman Glen F. Post III described the FCC’s decision as “a significant and exciting milestone,” Embarq CEO Tom Gerke proclaimed: “our combined company is committed to investing in our communities and providing our customers high-quality, reliable communications and expanded broadband services.”