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Groups Protest Proposed AT&T-BellSouth Merger

The proposed merger of AT&T and BellSouth is being questioned from two new sources – a group of smaller telecoms and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In protests filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the ACLU on Tuesday urged the FCC to review the proposed merger with an eye to NSA spying complaints while the telecoms led by XO Communications, citing "irreparable harms to competition and the public interest," asked the FCC to deny the merger.

Citing reports that AT&T and BellSouth illegally provided customer information to the National Security Agency, the ACLU maintained that the FCC should stop the merger. The telecoms have denied any wrongdoing.

"We are not asking the FCC to investigate the NSA," said Barry Seinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project, in a statement Tuesday. "We are simply asking the FCC to do its job and determine what the telecom companies have done in the past and intend to do in the future. There is absolutely no reason they can't find out whether the law was broken without revealing legitimate state secrets."

XO Communications led the group of smaller telecoms that included Cbeyond Communications, Grand Communications, NuVox Communications, Supra Telecom, Talk America, and Xspedius Communications. The group said the proposed merger of the former Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) would eliminate much existing and future competition as well as undermine the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

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