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AT&T Says FCC Could Not Proceed With Hearing

AT&T said Friday that it believes that it withdrew its T-Mobile merger application before the Federal Communications Commission voted on an order to designate the deal for a hearing before an agency administrative law judge.

The telco also said that "any suggestion" the FCC might not withdraw it would be an "an abuse of procedure" that the company would fight.
That came after there was some suggestion by public-interest groups the FCC could hold the hearing anyway and just pass along the withdrawal request along with the case.
The FCC chairman signaled Tuesday he was circulating the order for a vote, with AT&T withdrawing its application the next day and vowing to refile it.
"We took the required actions, announced this publicly, and filed securities disclosures accordingly," said AT&T senior executive vice and general counsel Wayne Watts in a statement. "We believe the record will show that we withdrew our merger application before the FCC voted on the chairman's proposed hearing designation order. It has since been reported that the FCC must approve this withdrawal. This is not accurate. The FCC's own rules give us this right and provide that the FCC "will" grant any such withdrawal. Further, this has been the FCC's own consistent interpretation of its rules. We have every right to withdraw our merger from the FCC, and the FCC has no right to stop us. Any suggestion the agency might do otherwise would be an abuse of procedure which we would immediately challenge in court."
AT&T already faces a February court date over the Justice Department's lawsuit against the deal as too much concentration in the wireless space. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski signaled by designating it for hearing that he agrees.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.