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Telecom wedding bells ringing?

Dan Grech Dec 29, 2006


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: The largest telecom marriage in U.S. history could clear its final hurdle today. AT&T’s bid for BellSouth had been held up by the Federal Communications Commission. But in a 19-page letter filed last night, AT&T grudgingly made a number of concessions to the FCC. From New York, Marketplace’s Dan Grech reports.

DAN GRECH: The offer may end a three-month stalemate between Republican and Democratic members of the FCC.

AT&T agreed to maintain “network neutrality,” meaning Web companies won’t be charged a premium for faster Internet access. That was a key concession to consumer groups.

AT&T will also offer basic high-speed Internet service in more areas and at a $19.95 per month for up to 24 months.

ANDY SCHWARTZMAN: I’m reasonably certain that this deal will be approved today.

That’s Andy Schwartzman with the Media Access Project, a public-interest law firm.

SCHWARTZMAN: The phone companies operate in an old fashioned mind set. They’re used to being the monopolies and they’re used to getting their way. And they’re not very good at thinking about the way the new businesses operate or how to integrate the new technologies.

He says without FCC pressure, the AT&T-BellSouth merger would have stifled competition.

In New York, I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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