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FCC ex-lobbyist commissioner will not vote on telecom merger

[JURIST] Robert M. McDowell, one of five commissioners that make up the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website], has said that he will not vote [statement, PDF] on the proposed $82.2 billion AT&T-BellSouth merger [AT&T materials] despite being cleared [JURIST report] to do so by FCC general counsel Samuel Feder. Feder issued a memorandum [PDF text] last week concluding that the government's in breaking the 2-2 deadlock [JURIST report] between the remaining commissioners outweighed McDowell's potential conflict of interest. McDowell, a former lobbyist for a trade group opposing the merger, recused himself from previous votes.

McDowell said Monday that Feder's decision did not address several key issues, including an agreement reached during his Senate confirmation preventing him from participating in matters in which his former company had played a role. The merger has already been approved [text] without reservation by the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division [official website] following an eight-month investigation that concluded that AT&T's proposed acquisition of BellSouth was not likely to "substantially reduce competition" in the US telecom market. In an October letter [PDF], the two Democratic FCC commissioners said that serious questions remained about whether the merger would serve the public interest, especially against the backdrop of other forms of consolidation and concentration in the telecommunications industry. The Washington Post has more.

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