Washington -- The Federal Communications Commission is
considering seeking public comment on AT&T Corp.'s request for a waiver from
cable-ownership rules that possibly stand in the way of the company's $56.4 billion
purchase of MediaOne Group Inc., an FCC source said last Wednesday.
AT&T asked for an 18-month wavier, if necessary, in a
Dec. 21 filing with the commission. Without a waiver, the company said, it might run afoul
of FCC rules that bar one cable operator from serving more than 30 percent of pay TV
AT&T would not need a waiver if the FCC were to decide
that it does not have a significant interest in cable-programming companies that sell
their services to Time Warner Entertainment, a limited partnership in which AT&T will
have a 25.5 percent stake after buying MediaOne.
Groups that want the FCC to impose Internet-access
conditions on the merger and that believe AT&T would exceed the 30 percent cap are
pressing the agency to seek public input on the waiver request. The parties seeking a new
round of comment are the Media Access Project, SBC Communications Inc. and U S West.
AT&T told the FCC that its request for a waiver was
provisional, applying only to the extent that the agency refused to accept the company's
assertion that it would not exceed the 30 percent cap. Another round of public comment
would only serve to "rehash" old arguments that would delay FCC review of the
merger, the company said.
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