FCC's McDowell (Again) Declines to Vote
"I have no choice but to disqualify myself from this matter," McDowell said during a press conference at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Monday afternoon. "The American people expect their representatives to make tough decisions; they also expect their public officers to operate under the highest ethical code."
McDowell had disqualified himself earlier due to his recent employment by the CLEC group Incompas , leaving the remaining four commissioners deadlocked at 2-2 along party lines. McDowell stuck to his guns Monday despite what D.C. sources called "heavy pressure" to do otherwise. Some of that pressure, sources say, came from FCC chairman Kevin Martin. (See FCC's McDowell: I'm No Dropout.)
McDowell also expressed frustration at his fellow commissioners' inability to approve the merger without him. "I have encouraged my colleagues to work together to resolve this matter, but to no avail," McDowell said. "My recusal has actually been used as a reason for more delays; this state of affairs has been personally disappointing to me."
McDowell was cleared last week by FCC general counsel Sam Feder to vote on the merger. But McDowell complained Monday that Feder didn't provide him a bullet-proof legal argument for participating. "I was expecting body armour, and what I got was Swiss cheese," McDowell said. (See McDowell May Vote on AT&T-BellSouth Merger.)
The FCC holds its next meeting December 20, but so far the AT&T/BellSouth matter is not on the agenda.
AT&T has been trying to get the government's blessing on its BellSouth merger since last March. (See FCC Balks at AT&T/BellSouth Merger Vote, AT&T Rages at FCC Delay, and Cisco to FCC: Hurry Up!)
The absorption of BellSouth into AT&T would create a huge national communications carrier in a deal now being valued at around $84 billion. Opponents of the merger worry that putting so much broadband access into the control of so few hands will lead to trouble for consumers. (See Ma Bell Is Back! and The New AT&T is No Cable Killer.)
— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading