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Comcast-AT&T merger approval near

Comcast Corp.'s takeover of AT&T Broadband is expected to receive
approval from the Federal Communications Commission imminently after the agency
ruled Wednesday that it would not require the companies to submit an
Internet-service-provider-carriage contract between AT&T Broadband and AOL
Time Warner Inc. for FCC commissioners' review.

Public advocates had demanded the documents, suspecting that the terms gave
America Online Inc. favorable treatment and will damage competition in the ISP
market after Comcast AT&T Corp. and AOL Time Warner become the top two
cable-system operators.

FCC Media Bureau staffers trekked across downtown Washington, D.C., to review
the documents at the Department of Justice, which is conducting a separate
antitrust review of the merger, and they concluded that the carriage deal was
not relevant to the merger.

Media Access Project president Andrew Schwartzman said he was 'stunned' by
the decision and MAP and its allies would appeal.

He said he would have honored the companies' right to keep details of the
contract from going public, but AT&T Broadband and Comcast officials said
there was no guarantee that the terms would not be leaked.

Schwartzman complained that the decision not to include the contracts in the
FCC's review indicated that the agency's merger-review process is becoming more