Source: FCC chairman recommends approval of AT&T-BellSouth merger

Friday, September 22nd 2006, 12:44 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is recommending unconditional approval of AT&T Inc.'s $67 billion purchase of BellSouth Corp., sources familiar with the matter said Friday.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin circulated the recommendation late Thursday, meaning a formal vote regarding the merger will likely occur at the agency's Oct. 12 meeting.

The FCC's action is unusual in that it comes before the Justice Department has reached a decision on whether the deal is in the public interest.

The department is still involved in challenges to two previous mega-telecommunications industry mergers: the purchase by SBC Communications Inc. of the old AT&T Corp., and Verizon Communications Inc.'s purchase of MCI Inc.

Sources who have seen the FCC recommendation say there appear to be no conditions on the sale, and that it appears any requirements to satisfy potential negative impacts on consumers will come later in the process.

At the same time, the agency also circulated what is known as a ``notice of inquiry'' regarding the issue of ``network neutrality'' _ whether Internet service providers should be forced to provide equal treatment to all traffic on their networks.