Turns out that FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell won't vote on the AT&T-BellSouth merger.
I have to tell you I am surprised. In the last six years, we haven't seen all that many Republicans buck the "free market" mantra enthusiastically championed by the GOP. And it is not common that regulators from either party would continue to hold their ground in the face of regulatory counsel's approval for them to vote on thorny issues such as the merger in question.
He has been intensively lobbied to do so by FCC Chair Kevin Martin. Citing a legal opinion from the FCC's counsel, Martin said that despite McDowell's fears that casting a vote would prove a conflict of interest with Martin's previous representation of a merger opponent, doing so would be OK.
"In all candor, however, I had expected a memorandum making a strong and clear case for my participation," McDowell said in a statement (which is I guess what you do in statements- say something). "Instead, the Authorization Memo is hesitant, does not acknowledge crucial facts and analyses, and concludes by framing this matter as an ethical coin-toss frozen in mid-air. The document does not provide me with confidence or comfort."
Right now, Gigi Sohn of public-interest group Public Knowledge sounds quite celebratory. She had hoped McDowell would delay his vote until more "enforceable" net neutrality language was written into the merger agreement. Writing in Public Knowledge's blog, Sohn called her post a "happy holiday gift."
Terming the news "a happy holiday gift," Public Knowledge's Gigi Sohn wrote in the organization's blog that McDowell's decision "leaves the FCC deadlocked at 2-2 and essentially forces Chairman Martin to compromise with Commissioners Copps and Adelstein, who want more conditions on the merger, including enforceable net neutrality."
Net neutrality- a sore subject for Ed Whitacre. That Ed Whitacre,CEO of AT&T. The same AT&T whose acquisition of BellSouth McDowell is uncomfortable with voting on.