McDowell To Reveal AT&T Vote Decision

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Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell says he will reveal Monday afternoon whether or not he has decided to vote on the AT&T/Bell South merger.

McDowell's vote would break a 2-2 deadlock on the merger over the issue of how many and what kind of public interest and competition-insuring conditions to put on the merger.

If he abstains, a vote might not come until sometime later next year. Congressional Democrats have cautioned the FCC and McDowell not to put the vote on a timetable, pointing out it took over 400 days to vote on the Adelphia merger, which would give the commission another six months or so before running into that territory.

The FCC has its own self-imposed 180-day shot clock on mergers, but it is a guide and not a rule.

McDowell's voice mailbox said it was full and the office was taking no calls or messages.

He has already canceled a speaking engagement and a trip to Nashville for a media ownership hearing as he was working through the issue.

He was not planning to vote on the merger because his former employer, COMPTEL, weighed in and ethics rules required a year buffer for commissioner votes in such cases to avoid even the appearance of a conflict. But the FCC's general counsel, responding to an inquiry from FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, cleared McDowell for the vote, pointing to precedent with previous commissioners and the government's interest in breaking the "impasse."

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