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AT&T Call waiting

After opposing Comcast President Brian Roberts' bid for its cable systems, AT&T has cleared a path that would give him what he wants, by looking to sell off the telco's remaining parts.

Industry executives said that AT&T has contacted other Baby Bells to test their interest in AT&T's long-distance and business-services operations. Most interested: BellSouth. AT&T's move was first reported by Business Week.

AT&T's cable systems would be separated and sold to the highest bidder.

Industry executives and analysts said that the move is a sign that AT&T Chairman Mike Armstrong has finally acceded to Comcast's argument that AT&T shareholders are better off merging the cable systems into the MSO in a stock swap than let AT&T keep them. "This is a big change," said one media company CEO.

Comcast has the only bid on the table; AT&T hopes Cox Communications and AOL Time Warner will jump in.

The proposals were made at AT&T's board meeting last week, giving NFL nicknames to possible players: "Eagles" for Philadelphia-based Comcast, "Falcons" to Atlanta-based Cox, and "Seahawks" to suburban Seattle-based Microsoft. A scheme involving Atlanta-based BellSouth was, for some reason, labeled "Brazil."

The telco moved to open formal negotiations with Comcast by asking the MSO to sign a confidentiality agreement with more relaxed terms than the one Comcast refused before. AT&T dropped a clause that would have prohibited Comcast from discussing a joint bid with other firms.