FCC Delays Vote on Megamergers until Monday

Unable to clinch full consensus for two looming megamergers, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on Friday kept having to delay the scheduled monthly meeting as he negotiated with commissioners regarding the combinations of SBC Communications Inc. and AT&T Corp., and Verizon Communications Inc. and MCI Inc.

The FCC finally postponed the meeting until Monday, saying only in a news release, “The prompt and orderly conduct of Commission business required this change and no earlier announcement was possible.”

Martin must secure the support of at least one of the commissions two Democrats before the deals can be approved. Reports circulated that negotiations hinged on what kinds of conditions the Bells should adhere to for the mergers to be approved. Martin does not want conditions attached to the mergers approval.

The four commissioners two Democrats and two Republicans wrangled late into the night on Thursday and again on Friday morning over possible conditions to impose. The meeting was to start at 10 a.m. Eastern time, then was moved to 2 p.m., then pushed again to 5 p.m., until news finally came at 6:45 p.m. that the meeting would not take place until Monday. 

The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday cleared the way for SBC to take over AT&T, in a deal worth $16 billion, and for Verizon and MCI to merge in a transaction valued at $8.5 billion. The only exception was that the companies lease some of their fiber optic lines to rivals, to prevent monopolies in certain parts of the country.

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