Groups to FCC: Deny AT&T-BellSouth Merger

In the face of the proposed merger of AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp., companies and associations are uniting more tangibly than they did when AT&T bought SBC and Verizon Communications Inc. bought MCI Inc. in 2005.

Those mergers went through too easily, the groups say, and now they have joined to oppose such rubber stamping. One of the first steps was to file comments with the FCC, urging the agency to deny the AT&T-BellSouth combination because of irreparable harms to competition and consumers.

The FCC is not likely to bar the merger and, in light of that, Cbeyond Communications, COMPTEL, Grande Communications, Media Access Project, the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA), NuVox Communications, the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunication Companies (OPASTCO), Supra Telecom, Talk America, XO Communications and Xspedius Communications all asked the agency to impose a number of conditions, more than were put on SBC and Verizon.

For example, the entities are seeking provisions including continued access to AT&T-BellSouth UNEs, with rates capped at current levels; continued access to AT&T-BellSouth special access services at rates capped at current levels; requirements that AT&T keep offering wholesale private line services at current rates in BellSouth territory; access to copper loops decommissioned by AT&T and BellSouth; divestiture of AT&Ts metropolitan network assets in BellSouth territory and BellSouths wireless assets, including licenses in the 2.5GHz range.

The groups contend a merger between AT&T and BellSouth will only create a larger monopoly that thwarts competition. The time has now come when the FCC must ask itself, Are we going too far this time?, said Heather Gold, senior vice president of government relations at XO Communications, in a statement. This merger will do nothing to bring more competition and choices for consumers and businesses. It will concentrate even more market power in the new AT&T, which is quickly reassembling the old Bell System. The FCC needs to say that enough is enough, and stop the incessant effort of AT&T to reestablish its nationwide wireline monopoly by using monopoly profits to gobble-up its competitors, rather than by competing for customer loyalty through innovation and service.

Gold added that if the FCC will not block the merger, it should have strong enforcement mechanisms with severe penalties if they are not followed.

At an early June news conference, Craig Aaron, communications director for Free Press, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on media policy, said, We werent too crazy about the Ma Bell show the first time. The sequels looking even worse.

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