Fed comms chief wants big U.S. telecom mergers to move ahead without conditions

The top federal communications regulator wants the mergers of SBC Communications Inc. with AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc. with MCI Inc. to be approved without any conditions requiring the companies to sell off assets.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin planned to send his fellow commissioners plans Friday outlining his reasons for seeking approval, a source close to the matter told.

The source was authorized to speak about the proposals only on the condition of anonymity because the petitions have not been made public.

If Martin gets at least two of the three other commissioners to agree, the mergers could be approved at the commission's monthly meeting Oct. 28. The Justice Department also must approve the deals.

An FCC spokesman declined to comment.

SBC's deal to acquire AT&T is valued at $16 billion (Ђ13 billion) while Verizon is offering $8.5 billion (Ђ7 billion) for MCI. SBC and Verizon already are the largest U.S. regional phone companies. The mergers would enhance their base of business customers and expand their national and international presence.

Critics say the mergers will lead to fewer choices for consumers and higher prices.

"What you have here in both cases is an enormous telephone monopoly merging with its most likely competitor for local and long-distance phone service, and its most likely competitor for building a voice over Internet alternative to the local phone company," said Gene Kimmelman, senior policy director at Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, AP reported.

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