US Justice Department gives nod to AT&T-BellSouth deal

The US Justice Department gave its unconditional approval to AT&T's buyout of BellSouth, a coast-to-coast behemoth that would be the largest US provider of telephone, wireless and broadband Internet services, an Associated Press report said.


The report said the decision cheered company executives, but outraged consumer advocates and two members of the US Federal Communications Commission.


The five members earlier scheduled a vote on whether the $78.5 billion deal should go forward, but that could be pushed back and one commissioner may sit out because of a conflict of interest, the Associated Press report said.


Despite the scale of the purchase, the Justice Department found no potentially adverse effects on competition, the report said.


The decision was immediately criticized by FCC member Jonathan S. Adelstein, a Democrat who called it 'a reckless abandonment of DoJ's responsibility to protect competition and consumers,' the report said.


Michael Copps, the commission's other Democrat, said the 'Justice Department has packed its bags and walked out on consumers and small businesses by refusing to impose even a single condition in the largest telecom merger the nation has ever seen.'


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