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December 4, 2006

FCC chair tries to progress AT&T-BellSouth deal

In a bid to end the stalemate in negotiations over AT&T Corp's plans to acquire BellSouth Corp, the US Federal Communications Commission's chairman has sought a new ruling.

By CBR Staff Writer

The agency’s chair Kevin Martin is seeking to permit FCC commissioner Robert McDowell to vote in whether or not to allow the $82.2bn deal in its current proposed state.

McDowell, a Republican, previously said he did not plant to vote because he previously worked for an association that represented bell companies that now compete with both AT&T and BellSouth.

But the FCC’s negotiations over the deal have reached an impasse, said Martin, who, along with fellow Republican commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate has unsuccessfully tried to strike a compromise with the remaining two commissioners, both Democrats, on potential conditions for the deal’s approval.

Late last week, Martin asked the agency’s general counsel Sam Feder to rule on whether McDowell could vote on the deal.

McDowell said, in a statement, that he looked forward to receiving Feder’s analysis on whether or not he could vote. Even if Feder gives him the green light, McDowell could always choose to abstain from voting.

The FCC’s approval is the final hurdle for AT&T’s proposed deal. It already has been approved by US antitrust and state regulators. Critics of the mega-deal have argued the deal, which would cement AT&T as the country’s leading telco, so far has been rubberstamped. A public hearing on the proposed merger is slated for later this month.

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