McDowell put FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in a tight spot, unable to deliver the decision that Whitacre surely expects as his due. The National Journal's Telecom Update has a nice review of the resulting shenanigans.
Last week the FCC's Office of General Counsel "authorized" McDowell to participate in the AT&T-BellSouth decision. Congressional Democrats John D. Dingell, (D-Mich.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who oppose the merger, threw down the gauntlet with Martin, writing in a lengthy letter, "This matter can and should be concluded in a timely fashion without compromising the ethical standards of the independent agency or the individual commissioners involved." Markey is slated to become chairman of the House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee on Jan. 3. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, incoming Senate Commerce chairman, also wrote a critical letter to Martin.
Whitacre, remember, is the leading figure in the gang of telcos and cable companies that wants Congress to criminalize municipal WiFi nets and is pressing to blackmail Web service providers like Google and Yahoo for the right to send Web traffic across the gang's networks to Internet users.
The merger of AT&T and BellSouth is not necessary for any reason that benefits the citizens of this country whose interests the Federal Communications Commission is supposed to protect. The FCC's rush to hand Whitacre what he wants before the incoming Congress can do more to prevent it is political hackery, pure and simple, and inothing more than you'd expect from the agency that since the Reagan administration has actively sought to bolster anti-competitive media concentration and release broadcasters, in particular, from their responsibilities to the public -- actions that resulted in 2003 in the press watchdog group Reporters Without Borders ranking the United States only 17th in the world in the freedom of its media. Martin's goal is clearly to keep it that way.