The big merger between  Louisiana's CenturyTel and Denver's Qwest comes amid changing times. Both companies continue to lose what was once the heart of their businesses---land-based telephone lines---with reports yesterday that some 1.8 million phone accounts evaporated in the last year (via The Denver Post ). For years, traditional phone operators have seen a decline in their business, as increasing numbers of customers decide to depend only on cell phones or switch to digital voice lines offered by cable companies. Teresa Taylor, Qwest chief operating officer, says that while losses continued during the quarter, the company is doing a better job of retaining phone customers. She adds that Qwest's broadband Internet subscribers increased 5.3 percent to 2.9 million. The CenturyTel-Qwest merger is an attempted defense "against wireless and cable operators, many of which offer bundled services," according to The Wall Street Journal , which notes increased demand for broadband for both companies hasn't yet offset losses from legacy operations.