FCC Dems Block AT&T/BellSouth Vote


A big moneky wrench appears to have been lobbed into FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's plans to vote on the  AT&T/BellSouth merger.

In a letter, the FCC's two Democrats have asked FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to pull the AT&T/BellSouth vote from the Friday meeting agenda and put it out for public comment, according to a copy of the letter.

Martin agreed to do so, with a 10-day window and another meeting Nov. 3. Martin is headed to Asia for a State Department tripSaturday.
Martin scheduled the vote on the proposed $67 billion merger for Oct. 12, but moved it to Oct. 13 to give the commissioners more time to try to negotiate an order. It turned out to be an unlucky Friday the Thirteenth for getting the deal done.

The 11 a.m. meeting was delayed for more than an hour and a half before the letter from the Democratic Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps was released.

They say that in the last 48 hours of negotiations over the issue, new proposals were made and that the Justice Deparment's decision Thursday to approve the combination came "with little substantive analysis," makes their job harder.

With Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell not participating in the vote, the commission split 2-2 between Republicans and Democrats appears to be stymied for the moment. Theoretically, McDowell could unrecuse himself, with the General Counsel's approval, but he has no plans to do so, said a source.

McDowell could also leverage his vote to broker some kind of compromise, then abstain from the final vote.Adelstein and Copps say that the comments could be collected quickly and the merger would still be ahead of  the time it took to complete the Adelphia merger.
The FCC's self-imposed 180-day shot clock on the BellSouth AT&T merger is up Oct. 20, while it is still 6 months ahead of the marathon Adelphia review.
Also on the docket was opening an inquiry into network neutrality, an equally contentious issue both at the commission and on the Hill, but that has been put off for another day as well.

Why did the Dems send a letter rather than walking a few steps for a  face-to-face? It could be a sign of the contentiousness of the issue, but Sunshine Rules also prevent three commissioners from meeting. So, they could have delivered the letter and left, but bringing up the issue would be illegal outside a public meeting, a law the commissoiners would like to change.