COMPTEL to Ask Judge for Inquiry Into AT&T/Verizon Divestiture Requirements

Competitive carrier association COMPTEL will go to court on May 10 to ask for permission to intervene in the Justice Departments requirement that AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. divest some of their unused fiber networks, as part of the conditions for approving their takeovers of AT&T Corp. and MCI Inc., respectively.

The DoJ last fall said such a move would satisfy antitrust statutes, but COMPTEL contends it is insufficient.

Even though the mergers already have gone through, COMPTEL hopes to convince a judge to perform an independent inquiry into whether the public interest is being served by the elimination of long-distance operators AT&T and MCI, explained Jonathan Lee, COMPTELs senior vice president of regulatory affairs, who will argue the case next week in the District Court for the District of Columbia before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.

Sources said it is unusual for the court to grant such a hearing for intervention.

If Sullivan approves COMPTELs request, the association will ask the court to reject the governments 11-city fiber-optic divestiture mandate for AT&T and Verizon.

[W]ere saying, reject the decree, make the government either litigate the case or come back with a consent decree that does solve the problem, Lee said, adding the court could dismiss the DoJs solution altogether.

[I]f the Justice Department isnt going to do anything about big businesses that merge, which they havent they provided more of an explanation on why they did nothing on Whirlpool-Maytag than they have on this case they need to say theyre not going to enforce the antitrust laws, Lee said. And thats fine thats the purpose of the Tunney Act, so that voters might ultimately make a decision as to, do you want a Justice Department that doesnt enforce the antitrust laws?

The 1974 Tunney Act requires federal courts to approve antitrust consent decrees (agreements), which are filed by the Justice Department. Anyone may file comments for or against the action in question. The act contains specific criteria the courts must consider in determining whether the Justice Departments decrees are in the public interest.

AT&T Inc.
Department of Justice
Verizon Communications Inc.

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