US lawmakers want to delay BellSouth-AT&T pact

The chairman and the top Democrat on the US House Judiciary Committee have asked the US Justice Department to delay approval of the merger of AT&T and BellSouth, an Associated Press report said.


The Associated Press report said Reps. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and John Conyers, D-Mich., sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking for the delay until a federal judge decides whether the previous merger of SBC Communications and the old AT&T, as well as the merger of Verizon and MCI, were in the public interest.


The chairman of the Senate subcommittee that deals with antitrust matters, Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, added his voice to the cautionary chorus, the Associated Press report said.


He and the panel's top Democrat, Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, asked the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission to consider imposing conditions on the merger 'if they are necessary to help ensure that the telecommunications market remains open to new sources of competition,' the report said.


Among their concerns: the amount of wireless spectrum that the merged companies would control, the report added.


A day earlier, Kohl and Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senior Judiciary Committee Democrat, wrote a similar letter questioning whether Justice has been approving mergers too hastily, counter to the intent of federal law.


AT&T announced in March that it was buying BellSouth for $67 billion. The deal must be approved by both the Justice Department and the FCC before it can close, the report said.


Late last week, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin circulated an order at the agency recommending approval of the merger, according to sources.