The FCC late Thursday said it would not consider the pending $80 billion merger of AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. at its Nov. 3 meeting.
Three weeks earlier, on Oct. 13, the agency also had delayed consideration of the matter.
Thursdays notice came as little surprise to the industry; speculation had run rampant all week that Chairman Kevin J. Martin would not be able to secure the approval of Democratic commissioners Jonathan S. Adelstein and Michael J. Copps in time for the Nov. 3 meeting. The fifth commissioner, Republican Robert M. McDowell, has said he will not vote on the merger because of his prior involvement with competitive carrier association COMPTEL.
COMPTEL executives praised the FCCs action on Thursday; the organization has lobbied furiously against enactment of the merger with no or few conditions
Given AT&Ts failure thus far to make a good faith effort to address legitimate public interest concerns, COMPTEL is heartened that the commission did not bend to AT&T’s pressure tactics, said Earl Comstock, president and CEO, in a news release. It remains to be seen whether AT&T ever engaged in any meaningful attempt to resolve those concerns but we look forward to seeing what, if any, last-minute proposals they may have made to the commission.
Comstock said the law mandates that when the FCC cannot reach a decision on the public interest merits of a proposed merger, the matter is to be put before an administrative law judge for hearing and recommendation on whether the merger promotes the public interest. We look forward to continuing to work with the commission to ensure that, if the merger is approved, it is done so with conditions which protect the public interest, Comstock added.
AT&T, meanwhile, said it had put a number of proposed conditions on the table that would quell critics. It said $10-per-month broadband service, as well as high-speed connectivity to rural and low-income areas, qualified as offers that had been receiving glowing approval from a broad range of individuals and groups, said spokesman Michael Balmoris.
While we regret that the merger has been delayed by commercial entities and their litany of unreasonable demands unrelated to our merger, we look forward to the FCCs approval, so that we can get about the business of providing the overwhelming benefits the merger represents to consumers, to the economy and to the public interest, he added.