MCI has rejected Qwest's bid a second time, leaving the way clear for Verizon.

Qwest has been trying to woo MCI since mid-February after it accepted a $6.7 billion takeover bid from rival Verizon. Subsequent bids and counter-bids have pushed Verizon's offer to $7.6 billion, and Qwest to $8.9 billion.

Verizon then said it wouldn't raise its offer and threatened to walk away. But MCI has now rejected Qwest higher bid. Qwest said it is weighing its options and suggested MCI shareholders may come to its rescue.

"We are confident that our offer is superior, and statements of support from many MCI share owners indicate that they are in agreement with us," Qwest said. "And, as stated above, Qwest will allow shareholders to dictate the next steps."