Seek Delay in AT&T-BellSouth Merger
By Siobhan Hughes
The Wall Street Journal
Friday, September 29, 2006
WASHINGTON -- A growing chorus of caution from lawmakers --
particularly Republicans -- could make it more difficult for the
Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department to
finish their reviews of AT&T Inc.'s $67 billion purchase of
BellSouth Corp. by mid-October as planned.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R.,
Wis.) and Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.), the panel's top
Democrat, wrote yesterday to the Justice Department asking to
postpone the merger's antitrust review until a federal judge
decides whether two prior telecommunications mergers are in the
Also, Sens. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D.,
Wis.), the chairman and ranking Democrat on the Judiciary
Committee's antitrust subcommittee, wrote asking the Justice
Department and the FCC to consider imposing conditions on the
merger to prevent the new company from hoarding the wireless
spectrum it controls, thus keeping it out of the hands of
The senators also asked the FCC and the Justice Department to
examine whether AT&T and BellSouth should divest themselves of
certain facilities in BellSouth's territory, in the Southeast.
Earlier in the week, Mr. Kohl joined Sen. Patrick Leahy of
Vermont, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, in writing
Justice antitrust chief Thomas Barnett to complain that the
agency has allowed high-profile telecommunications mergers to
close before completion of congressionally mandated court
The pushback from Capitol Hill, particularly from Mr. DeWine,
who is in a race to hold his Senate seat, pressures the FCC and
the Justice Department to hold off approvals until the judge
completes his review under the Tunney Act.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is examining the mergers of
Verizon Communications Inc. and MCI Inc. and the former SBC
Communications Inc.'s takeover of AT&T. New York Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer and two groups representing Bell
competitors have challenged the mergers, arguing Justice
Department conditions put on them didn't increase competition.
"We're aware of it and will respond as appropriate," Gina
Talamona, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said of the
letters. An FCC official said Chairman Kevin Martin had
received the letters but declined to comment further.
Mr. Martin has circulated the merger for a vote at the FCC's
Oct. 12 meeting, and the Justice Department's review was
expected to be completed before then, people close to the matter
say. Mr. Martin might lack a Republican majority on the
five-member FCC to approve the transaction; Commissioner Robert
McDowell may recuse himself, since his previous employer, a
trade group for small phone companies, opposes the deal.
---- Amy Schatz contributed
to this article.
Write to Siobhan Hughes at