MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota's portion of AT&T's $58 billion deal to buy MediaOne has been approved, MediaOne announced Friday. If federal regulators approve the deal, high speed Internet access via cable modem could be available to more than 600,000 homes.
Following approval by the St. Paul City Council on Wednesday, all 89 communities and the Public Utilities Commission have granted approval.
Local approval is required before the merger can be completed. Nationwide, 99 percent of approximately 600 local franchises have approved transfer of ownership, the company said.
If the merger is approved, it would allow computer users to have faster Internet access because they will be able to access the Internet through cable lines, rather than a telephone connection.
Customers should be able to access the Internet through cable lines by mid-2001, said Brian Dietz, MediaOne spokesman. The program is currently available in limited areas.
MediaOne has 330,000 customers in Minnesota and about 7 million in the United States, Europe and Asia. Its Minnesota customers are mostly in the Twin Cities metropolitan area, including western Wisconsin. MediaOne's cables pass by 600,000 homes in Minnesota, Dietz said.
The sale of MediaOne gave communities the chance to require the cable company to give other Internet companies open access to its network as a condition of transferring the franchise to AT&T. None of the Minnesota communities imposed such conditions, the company said.
''It was not a contentious process at all,'' Dietz said. ''The municipalities we received approval from did not want to take on such a large, complicated issue, like Internet regulation.''
St. Paul imposed several minor conditions, such as requiring the company to apologize in a letter to its city customers for poor customer service last spring and summer and new reporting requirements on customer service.
The state Public Utilities Commission approved the merger without imposing any conditions. But the PUC opened an investigation into proposals to require Internet service providers to offer access to cable modem networks, said Burl Haar, the commission's executive secretary.
The Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission are in the process of reviewing the merger, which was announced last May. The company said approval is expected in the first half of this year.
The AOL-Time Warner mega-merger announced Monday is not expected to affect the AT&T-MediaOne deal, even though AT&T would acquire MediaOne's 25 percent stake in cable systems owned by Time Warner, Dietz said.
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