US regulators delay decision on AT&T-BellSouth merger

The US Federal Communications Commission delayed for a third time its vote on whether to allow AT&T to acquire BellSouth, because it can't decide what conditions should be placed on the deal, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the vote was scheduled for Friday, but the agency sent a notice saying the item had been removed from the agenda.

'We're always open to moving forward, but we weren't able to reach an agreement for tomorrow's meeting,' said agency spokeswoman Tamara Lipper.

The agency was working with AT&T in an attempt to reach a compromise that would avoid a 2-2 deadlock, the report said.

The apparent standoff raises the possibility that the fifth and newest commissioner, Robert McDowell, a Republican appointee who until now has taken no part in the proceeding, may be pulled in to cast a tie-breaking vote, the Associated Press report added.

The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice cleared the roughly $80 billion deal on October 11, declaring that there were no competitive concerns and opting not to require the combined company to divest any assets or make any other concessions.

The failure to attach conditions sparked a sharp response from the two Democratic commissioners, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, who accused the Justice Department of failing to protect consumers.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin had scheduled the Friday vote after twice delaying the decision, the report said.