Plans by Windstream Holdings to merge with EarthLink Holdings Corp. in a stock and debt transaction valued at $1.1 billion have been approved by the FCC, which concluded last Thursday that a grant of the parties’ applications for transfer of control of various telecommunications service licenses “will serve the public interest.” 

Announced in November on the heels of similar mergers among other key players in the U.S. market for fiber-optic business and related network services, the proposed union of Windstream and EarthLink is expected to create a nationwide network of 145,000 fiber route miles.  The companies have already received Justice Department clearance to proceed with the deal, which would give shareholders of Windstream and EarthLink respective ownership stakes of approximately 51% and 49% in the combined entity.  Concluding that the transaction “presents no significant competitive harms,” the FCC voiced confidence that the merger is “likely to result in some public interest benefits related to network efficiencies and the increased ability of the combined company to serve customers on its own facilities.” 

At the time of November’s merger announcement, Windstream CEO Tony Thomas proclaimed that the combination with Earthlink “advances Windstream’s strategy by creating a stronger, more competitive business to serve our customers.”  Thanking the FCC for its “timely review and recognition of the public interest benefits,” David Avery, Windstream’s vice president of corporate affairs, confirmed that “our integration teams are working toward a targeted close of March 1” which is contingent upon receipt of remaining state regulatory and shareholder approvals.