AT&T/Bell South Merger Could Face 2-2 FCC


New Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, formerly with independent telecom association Comptel, could be recused from the AT&T/Bell South merger review, but it hasn't happened yet.

If McDowell can't cast a vote, that will leave the FCC with a 2-2 commission, as it had during the marathon 404-day review of the Comcast/Time Warner/Adelphia deal (though that vote turned out 4-1, with Democrat Jonathan Adelstein joining the majority).

McDowell told reporters Monday there was a one-year period during which he had to steer clear of proceedings in which Comptel filed, and that if/once it did weigh in, he would have to step away. Comptel filed a formal petition to deny the merger June 5, according to the group, only four days after he was sworn in.

The call to recuse is not McDowell's to make, however, but the FCC's general counsel (GC). That call has not yet been made, said a McDowell staffer, but that may be because the FCC review is not yet in full flower. McDowell said that, just in case, he has not looked at any of the filings pertaining to the merger.

"Although the Commissioner has been operating as though he will be recused from the proceeding, the General Counsel has not yet made a determination as to whether the Commissioner will be recused. The General Counsel makes a final determination on recusal issues on a case-by-case basis," McDowell's office said in a statement.