AT&T (formerly known as SBC) made consumer-friendly and business-friendly concessions in its proposed $85 billion merger with BellSouth, in an effort to get approval from the Federal Communications Commission to recreate the old Bell System.
The concessions came after negotiations with the FCC reached an impasse, with two Democrats on the five-member commission pushing for concessions, and two Republicans opposing them. The fifth commissioner, Robert McDowell, is a Republican who many thought would break the tie. He abstained because he previously lobbied for a trade group that represents smaller phone companies.
AT&T promised to:
1. Observe "network neutrality" principles to treat all Internet content equally FOR JUST TWO YEARS. (Consumer groups and some Internet companies have been pressing the FCC to make this a condition of approving the merger, but the two year guaranty may be of little lasting value.)
2. Increase the availability of high-speed Internet service.
3. Adhere to price caps for four years on "special access lines." (These are lines usually used by competitors and large businesses that connect directly to a phone company's central office.)
4. Repatriate 3,000 jobs outsourced by BellSouth outside the U.S. (At least 200 jobs would be in the New Orleans area.)
5. Offer "naked" DSL Internet service for $19.95 per month for 30 months. (This would allow people to get fast web access without buying other services, and help Internet phone companies like Vonage.)
6. Divest itself of wireless spectrum intended for broadband services. (Critics claimed that AT&T and BellSouth had so much spectrum that others couldn't compete.)
(info from The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press)