The FCC approved the union of CenturyLink and Qwest Communications last Friday, adopting a set of voluntary commitments offered by the merger partners that would spur the deployment of broadband services while reducing the companies’ reliance upon the Universal Service Fund (USF). Announced nearly a year ago, the $22.4 billion merger combines the third- and fourth-largest wireline local exchange carriers in the U.S. and puts Louisiana-based CenturyLink at the helm of a vast fixed-line network that spans 37 states, 17 million access lines, five million broadband users, 1.5 million multichannel video subscribers, and 850,000 wireless customers. Endorsing the deal, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski observed that the transaction “holds the promise of significantly improving broadband adoption and increasing high-speed broadband deployment and competition.” In approving the merger, however, the FCC conditioned its consent upon the parties’ adherence to various voluntary commitments that are aimed at boosting broadband service availability and uptake. Among other things, the combined entity is required to (1) launch a broadband adoption program, targeting low-income households, under which eligible consumers could purchase computers for less than $150 and receive broadband service for less than $10 per month, (2) boost capacity and download speeds on the Qwest broadband network to at least 4 Mbps, and (3) double the availability of 12 Mbps broadband service while tripling the availability of 40 Mbps service. The merged entity must also observe a seven-year freeze on enterprise pricing in buildings in which Qwest and CenturyLink both offer service, and phase down USF local switching support. Although Commissioner Mignon Clyburn lauded the companies’ commitments as “a significant step,” both FCC Republicans—Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker—issued concurring statements that took issue with the agency’s year-long review and with regulatory costs associated with the enforcement of merger conditions. Despite voting for merger approval, McDowell voiced concern that the agency “is continuing to create a prescriptive merger review process that unnecessarily raises the costs of such beneficial transactions.” Commissioner Michael Copps, meanwhile, lamented that the FCC missed an opportunity to mandate adherence to net neutrality principles, observing, “I would have much preferred that our action today included an enforceable commitment to protect consumers’ open Internet rights.” The companies must await regulatory approval in one remaining state—Oregon—before they may consummate the merger.