Markey Says McDowell Should Abstain

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Soon to be Democratic House Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey says he thinks Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell should abstain from voting on the AT&T/Bell South merger, even if he can.

"If the FCC General Counsel takes action to compel Commissioner McDowell's participation," Markey said Monday in a statement, "I strongly urge Commissioner McDowell to announce his intention to vote to abstain as a matter of principle."

On Friday, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin sent Markey and other Hill communications committee leaders a letter updating them on the status of that merger review and pointing out that he had contacted the general counsel's office about the possibility of McDowell being able to vote to break a two-two deadlock if it is in the public interest.

Without a third Republican vote, Martin's attempts to approve the merger have run into two commission Democrats pushing for strong public interest conditions on the merger, which Markey also supports

Calling a possible general counsel decision to clear McDowell for the vote an "extraordinary notion for an independent, impartial regulatory agency," Markey said the commissioners should conclude their review without a vote from McDowell, but not without "significant, enforceable consumer and competitive safeguards."

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