Who's next for deregulation? AT&T

With Verizon granted a temporary operating advantage, AT&T and other telecoms will soon demand similar treatment, but they may not get it without a fifth commissioner.

Now that Verizon has gotten the dereg green light from the FCC, AT&T will follow suit, Reuters reports.

AT&T Chief Executive Officer Ed Whitacre said his company, the biggest U.S. telecommunications company, would seek similar relief.

"I think it will be pretty close to what Verizon did," Whitacre said, referring to his plans to file a petition like the one by Verizon that sought deregulation. "I'm sure if Verizon has it, we'll get it too." He spoke to reporters after addressing a telecommunications conference.

With Democrats up in arms over the Verizon move, quick action for AT&T and other telecoms is unlikely unless a third Republican is appointed.

The FCC is now evenly split with two Republican and two Democratic commissioners and one Republican vacancy.

For the agency to act quickly, the FCC chairman would likely need the support of that third Republican since the Democrats oppose granting broad relief. Verizon won deregulation by filing a petition, which was automatically granted after a 15-month waiting period.

AT&T could face a similar waiting period unless the Senate confirmed FCC nominee Robert McDowell, a telecommunications lawyer, which could allow the FCC to act sooner.

 

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