AT&T: FCC has wrong caps number

Divest order 'baseless on merits,' telco argues

WASHINGTON — AT&T has once again told the Federal Communications Commission that it shouldn’t have to sell off its stake in Time Warner Entertainment — end of story.

The FCC is in the process of deciding whether the divestiture still holds; a federal appeals court recently struck down a key ownership cap prohibiting one cabler from reaching more than 30% of the national audience.

AT&T went over that mark when merging with MediaOne. Accordingly, the FCC ordered conglom to divest a 25% interest in TWE, which includes cable systems and Warner Bros.

FCC suspended its own directive after the appeals court declared the cable ownership cap arbitrary and unconstitutional.

‘Baseless on merits’

Several citizen groups have asked the FCC to keep the divestiture order in place, saying the court decision has no bearing in this instance.

In papers filed with the FCC late Friday, AT&T said that such a “claim is baseless on the merits.” Telco went on to reiterate all the reasons why it should be allowed to keep TWE, making repeated reference to the now-disabled ownership cap.

Those opposing AT&T’s position have until May 25 to file comments.

After that, the FCC will make its final decision, with new Republican Chairman Michael Powell leading the way.

In other FCC news, Powell continued Monday to name his lieutenants, tapping longtime FCC staffer Jane Mago as permanent general counsel. Mago had been serving as acting counsel since January.

Longtime career politico Martha Johnston has been picked to serve as the FCC’s liaison to Congress. Previously, Johnston has done stints at the State Dept. and the U.S. Information Agency as well as on Capitol Hill.