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AT&T's Purchase of BellSouth Gets Justice Department Approval
Associated Press
The Wall Street Journal
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Department of Justice on Wednesday approved AT&T Inc.'s $67 billion purchase of BellSouth Corp. The decision leaves the Federal Communications Commission as the final hurdle for a deal to create the nation's largest provider of phone, wireless and broadband Internet services.

"After thoroughly investigating AT&T's proposed acquisition of BellSouth, the antitrust division determined that the proposed transaction is not likely to reduce competition substantially," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas O. Barnett, who heads the department's antitrust division.

The decision was immediately criticized by FCC member Jonathan S. Adelstein, who called it "a reckless abandonment of [the Justice Department's] responsibility to protection competition and consumers."

The FCC is scheduled to vote on the matter Thursday, though there has been speculation the agency may hold off because of political pressures from Congress about the deal's possible impact on market competition.

If the deal wins final government approval, the merger would give San Antonio, Texas-based AT&T total control over the nation's largest cellular provider, Cingular Wireless, a joint venture of the two phone companies that serves 57.3 million customers.

Though the FCC has the final say in approving the merger, the Justice Department said it coordinated with the FCC throughout its investigation.

The department's approval, given without conditions, "underscores the competitive nature of our industry and the pro-competitive benefits of this merger," AT&T General Counsel James D. Ellis said in a prepared statement.