DOJ Approves AT&T-TCI Merger - InformationWeek

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DOJ Approves AT&T-TCI Merger

The Justice Department today approved the proposed $48 billion merger between AT&T and Tele-Communications Inc. The government said it would approve the deal after the companies agreed TCI would divest its 23.5% stock interest in Sprint's PCS wireless business.

The merger will give AT&T another network to provide businesses and consumers with high-speed Internet access. "We feel this transaction represents the largest step to date toward meeting the central goal" of competition that was set in the sweeping telecom deregulation law in 1996, said Jim Cicconi, AT&T general counsel and executive VP for government affairs and federal policy.

AT&T and TCI agreed to place the Sprint wireless assets in a trust when they announced the merger earlier this year. The agreement to sell the Sprint stock "will ensure that the merger will not blunt the move toward a more competitive market in wireless services and that customers continue to reap the benefits of that competition," said Joel Klein, the Justice Department's assistant attorney general for antitrust.

The Bell companies that are trying to merge have argued that if regulators are going to allow AT&T and TCI to merge, they should also allow Bells to merge with each other. The Consumer Federation of America and some municipal governments have expressed concerns that the merger will hurt residential cable competition.

The FCC still has to approve the merger, which the companies hope will close by mid-1999.

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