Chairman Tries To Push Forward AT&T-BellSouth Deal
By Amy Schatz
The Wall Street Journal
Saturday, December 2, 2006
Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin set
the wheels in motion late Friday to compel a Republican
commissioner to vote on the pending merger of
AT&T Inc. and
BellSouth Corp., which has hit an impasse over potential
Republican commissioner Robert McDowell had expressed
concerns about possible conflict-of-interest issues because
his former employer, an interest group representing small
phone companies, has opposed the merger. The five-member
FCC, which has three Republicans and two Democrats, has been
unable to reach agreement on the merger without Mr.
McDowell, who might cast the deciding vote.
Friday afternoon, Mr. Martin directed the FCC's general
counsel to review whether Mr. McDowell should be allowed to
vote on the deal. That review will take days, not weeks,
according to an FCC official close to the negotiations. "It
just became clear than an impasse was reached" in
negotiations between Mr. Martin and the FCC's two Democrats,
an FCC official said. The chairman sent a letter to
Congressional leaders informing them of his decision.
In a statement, Mr. McDowell pointedly did not say he was
not yet prepared to vote on the deal, saying only that he
had received a copy of the chairman's letter and that he
looks forward to receiving the general counsel's analysis
regarding his potential participation.
The FCC's two Democratic members want a series of conditions
to be placed on the deal, including guarantees about
non-discriminatory Internet access and rate caps on
high-volume data lines used by large business customers.
Mr. Martin originally advocated no conditions to be placed
on the deal although later suggested AT&T divest a few
business customers in BellSouth's region.
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