On September 27, five major cable companies asked the FCC for conditions on AT&T’s merger with BellSouth to ensure that the combined phone giants cannot discriminate against cable’s competing digital-phone service. The cable companies seeking these conditions were Advance/Newhouse Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems, Cox Communications and Insight Communications.
Each introduced voice over Internet protocol (“VoIP”) to cable subscribers. The cable MSOs said in a letter to the FCC that some of the conditions they want should apply to all cable VoIP providers, meaning cable’s biggest players – Comcast and Time Warner Cable – would benefit without actually having to take a public position at the FCC. AT&T’s takeover of BellSouth would make it by far the dominant local phone company in the United States, with 70 million access lines, prompting the cable companies to call for conditions that would protect new voice entrants’ ability to compete. In March, AT&T announced the $67 billion BellSouth deal, which, if approved, would add nine states from Kentucky to Florida to AT&T’s U.S. footprint. The FCC will vote on the merger on November 3 and the Justice Department approved the merger on October 11.
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