When the Georgia Public Service Commission approved the merger of BellSouth Corp. and AT&T Inc. last week, the 3-2 vote may have started a process that could kill some local competitors and hasten consolidation among others, according to industry experts.

Local competitors may seek reconsideration of the PSC’s decision, said William H. Weber, corporate counsel for Cbeyond Communications, a BellSouth competitor. The merger also has to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. If approved, it will be part of an industry shakeout in which not only are smaller phone companies fighting giant rivals, but also the surviving telecom companies are battling cable operators.

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