AT&T-BellSouth Merger Inches Forward With Appointment Of FCC Chairman - InformationWeek
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11/20/2006
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AT&T-BellSouth Merger Inches Forward With Appointment Of FCC Chairman

AT&T senior VP Chris Rooney expressed confidence over the weekend that the acquisition would be consummated without the firms having to give up additional concessions.

With the U.S. Senate's confirmation of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to a five-year term last week, the FCC planets are nearly aligned for approval of AT&T's acquisition of BellSouth without the requirement of any onerous concessions.

The final link to be closed is represented by Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell, who had recused himself from deliberations and voting on the issue because he was formerly employed by the Competitive Telecommunications Association (CompTel), a telecom industry lobbying organization.

AT&T senior VP Chris Rooney expressed confidence over the weekend that the acquisition would be consummated without the firms having to give up additional concessions. Traveling in a business entourage with President Bush in Vietnam, Rooney expressed confidence the deal would be completed this calendar year, according to a Dow Jones Newswires report.

"We have great optimism in what we are doing with the FCC," he said.

The FCC has been divided along political lines on the merger with Martin and another Republican commissioner, Deborah Taylor Tate, favoring approval. Democratic Party appointees Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein have balked on approving the deal, leaving the commission split 2-2.

Speculation in Washington suggests that Martin may convince McDowell to "un-recuse" himself so he can vote to approve the deal. Or, that the Republicans will grant the Democrats some minor concessions in return for their votes. Either way, there is a push to get the deal approved before the Democrats take over Congress. Once that happens, getting the acquisition approved will be much more difficult.

AT&T's Rooney said Copps and Adelstein haven't opposed the merger. The merger, which would create the largest telecom company in the U.S. and include the largest mobile phone provider, Cingular Wireless, has been criticized by some consumer groups as anticompetitive.

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