The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has once again delayed its decision on AT&T’s proposed acquisition of BellSouth.
The agency was scheduled to consider the acquisition on Friday, but on Thursday it deleted the agenda item regarding the acquisition from its Friday schedule.
The U.S. Department of Justice already approved the acquisition in October, but the FCC is split. Two commissioners have said that they’re concerned about whether the deal will serve the public interest because it will reduce competition in the market. They’re also responding to lobbying efforts from competitive carriers and consumer groups that have asked the commission to block the deal.
The commission had planned to make a decision on the acquisition in mid-October but pushed it back to Friday. At the time of that delay, commissioners said they had just received new proposals for conditions that the commission could place on the acquisition that might address some of their and competitors’ concerns. They said they wanted more time to consider the ideas and to hear public comment on the proposed conditions.
A group of telecommunications providers in June suggested some possible conditions that the FCC could set, including that it require AT&T to continue to sell access to the AT&T and BellSouth networks at current prices. That would ensure that competitors could continue to offer services under similar conditions as they do now.
They also suggested that the FCC require the companies sell off some overlapping networks and sell the broadband wireless licenses that BellSouth owns.
After the delay in mid-October, AT&T said it is open to discussing possible conditions, but it believes that no conditions are necessary for the merger to benefit the public.
AT&T and BellSouth announced the deal in March. They require FCC approval before it can become final.
-Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service (Dublin Bureau)
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