Last updated: February 21, 2008 - 4:54am
FCC CHAIR MOVES TO BREAK AT&T DEADLOCK
[SOURCE: Associated Press, AUTHOR: Bruce Meyerson]
Declaring an "impasse" on AT&T's proposed acquisition of BellSouth, Federal Communications Chairman Kevin Martin cleared the way Friday for a commissioner who had disqualified himself from the deliberations to break the deadlock. Chairman Martin asked the FCC's general counsel to "consider whether the government's interest would be served" by permitting Commissioner Robert McDowell to vote on the $81.6 billion deal, according to a letter sent to members of the congressional committees that oversee the agency. Commissioner McDowell, one of three Republicans on the five-person commission, had recused himself because he is a former lobbyist for a trade group that opposes the merger. Without McDowell, the vote has been deadlocked at 2-2, with Chairman Martin and another Republican appointee favoring approval of the deal, and the two Democrats demanding the companies offer additional concessions to ensure it doesn't harm consumers. In his letter, Martin wrote, "Despite working for months to reach consensus with my colleagues, three attempts over the past six weeks to have this item considered at an open meeting, and countless hours of internal deliberations, the commission has reached an impasse." Commissioner McDowell issued a short statement saying he looks forward to the general counsel's analysis "regarding my potential participation." Both Democrats harshly criticized the move Friday night. Commissioner Michael Copps said allowing McDowell to vote would be "taking a mulligan" and "starting over with a changed set of players." He said the move would "create more problems than it resolves" and "short circuit discussions, and very likely shortchange consumers." Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said the decision "appears to be an effort to cut short the dialogue about measures to safeguard choice and competition for consumers and to promote affordable broadband services."
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