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The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday approved Comcast Corp.’s $47.5 billion acquisition of AT&T Broadband, clearing the way for the companies to close the deal as early as this week. “The proposed combination would pose no public interest harms,” FCC media bureau director Ken Ferree said. “None.” The decision was 3-1, with Commissioner Michael Copps dissenting. “The sheer economic power created by this mega-combination, and the opportunities for abuse that would accompany it, outweigh the very limited public interest benefits that either the applicants or the majority find here,” Copps said in his dissent. “The more I review the issues at stake in this proposal, the more I am persuaded it should not go forward.” But the other commissioners said they saw no problems with the deal. “The benefits of this transaction are considerable; the potential harms negligible,” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a statement. “We therefore conclude that the merger serves the public interest, convenience and necessity.” The deal is conditioned on AT&T Comcast Corp. placing its 27 percent interest in Time Warner Entertainment into an irrevocable trust. The trust must be divested within five years. The companies previously had pledged to take this step. The Department of Justice’s antitrust division is expected to clear the transaction. The companies are expected to close the deal this week. Comcast agreed Dec. 19, 2001, to acquire AT&T Corp.’s broadband operation. AT&T shareholders will get 0.34 shares of AT&T Comcast Corp. for each of their AT&T shares. Each Comcast share will be exchanged for one share in the new company. The combined company will have 27 million subscribers in 41 states and will have about $19 billion in annual revenue. Consumer advocates, who have objected to the deal throughout, blasted the decision. “There should have been safeguards to ensure competition and diversity in the cable programming market; real choices for Comcast broadband users, including the ISP of their preference; and public policies designed to empower local communities so they can share some of the benefits of digital cable,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. Ferree said the FCC concluded the deal would expedite deployment of broadband access and would not result in a reduction of choice for paid television for any consumers. “This combination solves problems,” he said. “It does not create them.” Copyright �2002 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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