Federal Consolidation Commissioner

It isn’t enough to drag his feet on obligations to inform and engage the public on the media ownership proceeding. Now FCC Chair Kevin Martin is ready to sign off on the proposed AT&T – BellSouth merger without imposing a single condition.

While he may have a bit more political savvy than his predecessor, Martin still apparently has brass balls, jumping ahead of the Justice Department’s antitrust review to give a big old early Christmas present to Ed Whitacre, public interest enemy #1. If the national cable franchise bill passes the Senate and this merger survives, then AT&T will become the nation’s largest telecommunications company, poised to become the largest cable and broadband provider, with barely any competition in any local market.

The rest of the commission is a little less of a sure bet on the merger. In particular new Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell may have to recuse himself because he used to lobby on behalf of the smaller competing telcos. That would mean Martin would need at least one of the FCC’s Dems to get on board, which I would assume would require a boatload of concessions — especially on net neutrality — if it would happen at all.

And don’t expect any public hearings on this issue, which is probably as important as the media ownership proceeding with regard to maintaining a diverse media and free internet.

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