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Even if Comcast can get its bid for AT&T Broadband past AT&T’s board of directors and shareholders, the company faces another, equally important hurdle: regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission, as well as from either the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission. The FCC is already in the midst of developing a new benchmark for cable ownership limits, after a federal appeals court, partly at AT&T’s urging, threw out the FCC’s previously established 30 percent ownership cap in March. The FCC is expected to propose a new, higher cap in the next few months. Comcast’s new market share should come in below that cap, especially if it didn’t include AT&T’s minority stake in Time Warner Entertainment, but the FCC could still block the deal as being against the public interest. FCC Chairman Michael Powell is skeptical about regulating media ownership consolidation, however. In addition to an FCC review, either the DOJ or the FTC would perform an antitrust review of the acquisition. But analysts expect that the Bush appointees at those agencies — who, like Powell, are more laissez-faire than their predecessors — would clear the deal. “The problem is not the regulatory problem,” said Legg Mason analyst Blair Levin. “The problem is how do you get it in front of shareholders.” Consumer advocates already are marshalling opposition to government approval of the prospective deal, akin to the broad campaign mounted against the AOL Time Warner merger. Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said the deal would be “a recipe for disaster in terms of competition and consumer interests.” Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Why AT&T Broadband Is Cheap CNN to Cease Personalized Internet News Service EU Investigators Raid Mobile Operators Copyright � 2001 The Industry Standard

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