October 6, 1999
|Re:||Applications of Ameritech Corp., Transferor, and SBC Communications Inc., Transferee, for Consent to Transfer Control of Corporations Holding Commission Licenses and Lines Pursuant to Sections 214 and 310(d) of the Communications act and Parts 5, 22, 24, 25, 63, 90, 95 and 101 of the Commission's Rules, CC Docket No. 98-141.|
Today we approve a merger of two of the largest incumbent telephone companies in the United States. Combined, this new company will comprise approximately one third of the total local access lines in the country. Although a merger of this size is no minor event, when viewed more broadly, it is but one part of a larger global restructuring of the telecommunications industry. Congress changed the landscape of the telecommunications industry when it passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Now companies are aligning, merging, expanding, contracting and splitting into pieces to position themselves better on the global battlefield. Our challenge is to ensure that the emerging marketplace is conducive to local competition, as envisioned by the Act.
Absent conditions, the record is compelling that the combination of SBC and Ameritech would not serve the public interest; it would delay rather than hasten local competition. I particularly lament the loss of a large, incumbent local exchange company for benchmarking purposes. Ameritech has also contributed to competition in the multichannel video marketplace through its successful cable overbuilds. I hope that SBC will continue to pursue that strategy aggressively.
While I agree with my colleagues that, on balance, the merger conditions tip the scale in favor of approval of the merger, they are no panacea. The potential for diminution of local competition in the SBC/Ameritech states remains. Whether these conditions are successful will depend in large measure on the good faith efforts of the merged companies to meet both the letter and the spirit of the requirements. SBC has assured the Commission that it intends to do so, and I rely heavily on these representations. The Commission will be watching closely.
The communications landscape is reconfiguring at an astonishing speed. In approving this merger, the Commission has made every effort to ensure that the American consumer reaps the benefit of a competitive marketplace.