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Groups Praise FCC Dems Over 'Net Gain

Consumer groups were applauding what they saw as a victory of the FCC's Democratic majority in the conditions agreed to by AT&T on its planned merger with Bell South.

Citing a letter they said AT&T has filed with the commission agreeing to network neutrality and low-cost DSL service in hopes of gaining FCC approval of the merger, key executives with Free Press, Consumers Union and Consumer Federation of America praised Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein for holding firm against Republican pressure, said holding consumer prices for DSL down could pressure the market to follow suit, and suggested the net neutrality provision was the product of Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell's decision to abstain from voting, thus keeping the FCC at tw0-two, Republicans and Democrats, and forcing some concessions if the merger was to secure a vote.

The groups said they were still concerned about the mergers' effect on competition and would continue to push Congress to pass a law mandating nondiscriminatory Internet pricing and service, the issue that killed a telecom franchise reform bill in the last Congress.

They have some receptive ears in the new Democratic leadership.