US telecoms regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the merger of rural wireline and broadband providers CenturyTel and EMBARQ. The two companies will combine their operations to form a new entity called CenturyLink, which will be one of the largest rural wireline providers in the country, serving around 7.7 million fixed line customers and two million broadband subscribers. The companies have agreed to adhere to conditions set out by the FCC, pledging to maintain the availability and quality of EMBARQ’s wholesale long-distance operations and to improve the processing of wholesale orders. CenturyLink will also be required to invest in its broadband operations, expanding network coverage and increasing the speed of its services. EMBARQ has announced that it expects the merger to be completed on 1 July 2009.