State regulators have signed off on the purchase of the Newton-based Iowa Telecom communications company by the Arkansas-based Windstream Corporation. Iowa Telecom provides phone, high-speed internet and digital T.V. to mostly rural areas of the state. Iowa Utilities Board spokesman, Rob Hillesland says the utility board issued a written approval after reviewing the merger.

Hillesland says the board reviews such mergers to determine if they are in the best interest of the public and ratepayers and if they find that’s not the case they can turn down the transaction. “The board did not do that in this case, they found this to be overwhelmingly a good thing,” Hillesland says.

Hillesland says there were so few concerns raised about the merger that the board approval was given without going to a hearing. He says there’s written testimony filed in the case and anyone who contests the merger can file their reply, and an evidentiary hearing is then held to hear the concerns. “In this case there were not very many contested issues and everything was pretty much ironed out and a decision was reached quite early in the case,” Hillesland explains.

The Utilities Board said it appears that Iowa Telecom’s overall financial position will improve as a result of the merger, and more jobs will eventually be created. Hillesland says both Windstream and Iowa Telecom said they will look to expand the Newton call center after the merger, and they also hope to expand the number of wire lines and business products offered. Hillesland says the merger should lead to more service in some areas of the state.

“They do serve lot of small towns and rural areas in Iowa, and that’s one of the areas where the legislature and also our board has kind of looked at trying to expand the high speed internet service, and (we’re) hopeful this will be a good thing for that as well,” Hillesland says. Iowa Telecom began operation in June of 2000 taking over the rural assets of several regional telephone companies and provides service to over 450 communities. The company employs around 800 people.

Windstream is headquartered in Little Rock and operates in 16 states. The deal to purchase Iowa Telecom was valued at $1.1 billion when it was announced in November.