McDowell declines to vote on telecom merger

AT&T’s proposed $84 billion buyout of BellSouth, a deal that could have major implications for future pay TV services, remains in doubt following the decision of FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell to permanently recuse himself from the proceeding. McDowell was under pressure by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to cast a tie-breaking vote to approve the controversial merger, which would be the largest telecommunications merger in U.S. history.

Samuel Feder, the FCC’s general counsel, recently cleared McDowell to participate in the vote. But, as the former lobbyist for a trade group opposed to the deal, McDowell said he was not comfortable in casting a vote in the matter.

McDowell, who announced his decision last week, said he hoped his fellow commissioners “will come back to the negotiating table in good faith to offer meaningful concessions.” The two Democrats on the commission, Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein, have demanded that AT&T agree to certain conditions, including some allowances on the issue of network neutrality. The Republicans have no such demands.