Fed slaps AT &T on the wrist


AT & T Corp. is under government orders to cough up $9,000 for failing to tell the FCC upfront how many cable subscribers were added in past mergers. Consumers Union and other groups complained in October that AT & T and Tele-Communications Inc., the predecessor to its cable subsidiary, failed to disclose how three mergers would alter their national audience reach.

The FCC, to ensure that cable systems do not exceed the 30% cap on share of U.S. multichannel subscribership, requires any system at a 20% share to certify changes in reach in filing merger applications.

The deficient applications included transactions with Galaxy Cablevision and FHF Cable in 1999 and Comcast in January. AT & T argued that certifications were due only prior to closing the transactions. But FCC officials said a review of certification letters reveals that the companies were "obviously aware" of the certification requirements.