As the FCC prepares to deregulate the broadband data services market for incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs)—a vote is planned at the April 20 meeting—the Wireline Competition Bureau has asked for more information from ILEC CenturyLink and merger partner Level 3 on how their merger would affect competition for business services.
"To permit the Commission to review the Application and make the necessary public interest findings, we require additional information and clarification of certain matters discussed in the Application," the bureau said in the March 30 request with a deadline of April 13.
The bureau wants a geographic breakout of BDS sales and where the two companies currently compete for business internet access, BDS and fiber (lit, dark, long haul and metro).
Such follow-up requests are not unusual as the FCC drills down on the public interest statements and deal outlines provided by the companies in their filings.
The bureau also wants the companies to describe and document the deal’s effects on plans for all those "both within and outside of CenturyLink's incumbent local exchange carrier (LEC) footprint, including any steps the combined company will take post-Transaction to change existing service offers and/or terms and conditions to business consumers both inside of and outside of CenturyLink's incumbent LEC footprint."
CenturyLink had argued that former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to re-regulate ILECs could have resulted in "crippling" rate cuts while ignoring competition. Pai's deregulatory approach, by contrast, assumes competition unless proven otherwise and includes duopolies and "nearby" providers as evidence of competition.
The merger was announced Oct. 31 and applications filed with the FCC and for antitrust review by the Department of Justice in December.
The merger is valued at $34 billion including debt.
Along with the AT&T-Time Warner merger, it will be one of the first big media mergers to be vetted primarily under the Trump Administration. Trump has talked about reducing regs but also about blocking consolidation among media outlets.