A Louisiana company plans to buy Denver-based Qwest, the leading provider of local phone service in Minnesota and 13 other states.
CenturyLink, the country's fifth-largest local-phone company, will pay more than $10 billion for No. 3 Qwest.
Qwest spokeswoman Joanna Hjelmeland says the combined company will be better positioned to compete in a very tough business.
"We are creating one larger, stronger company. As Qwest becoming part of CenturyLink, we are going to be able to do things that perhaps we couldn't have done before," Hjelmeland said. "Financially, we are going to be in better standing."
Local phone companies have been losing about 10 percent of their customers annually to wireless phone service providers and cable companies.
Hjelmeland says customers won't see any changes soon, as the deal gets scrutinized by regulators.
"For our customers on the business side and residential customers, they really won't see anything difference over the next year, because we really have to operate business as usual," Hjelmeland said.
If they combined today, CenturyTel and Qwest would have about the same number of phone lines that Qwest had on its own just eight years ago. In Minnesota, CenturyLink has about 140,000 lines. Qwest has nearly 1.3 million.