Merger critics ticked at AT&T privacy prediction


The fight over AT&T Corp.'s confidential Internet-service-provider-carriage deal with AOL Time Warner
Inc. is heating up and may complicate AT&T's effort to sell its broadband
operation to Comcast Corp.

AT&T attorneys reiterated their refusal Wednesday to reveal details of
the agreement in a filing that implied that pledges from Federal Communications
Commission staff and consumer groups demanding access to the contract aren't
good enough and that submitting the details to the agency "would jeopardize the
confidentiality of proprietary commercial agreements."

The filing generated an angry response from Andrew Schwartzman, president of
Media Access Project, one of the groups demanding that regulators review the
AT&T contract. Schwartzman called on Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts
to convince AT&T to make the contract available. "It is beneath Brian Roberts to
question the integrity of the commission's career and professional staff and the
attorneys who practice before the FCC," he said.

Schwartzman and public advocates speculated that the terms will limit competing
ISPs' access to Comcast's high-speed network and perhaps pose enough harm to
competition to tip regulators' opinion against the merger, which would leave
Comcast/AT&T and AOL Time Warner as the largest and second-largest MSOs in the
country, respectively.

FCC commissioners are still trying to sort out the dispute, and their approval
of the deal, once expected to be imminent, may be put off at least until next