AT&T proposed buyout of BellSouth was thrown into doubt when Robert McDowell, a member of the Federal Communications Commission and a former telecommunications industry lobbyist, said he is excluding himself from participation in the agency's deliberations on the deal.
McDowell has said previously that he would not vote because he once worked for an association that represents competitors to the two telephone carriers.
McDowell's personal disqualification means that the nation's largest telecommunications merger is stuck at a presumed 2-2 deadlock. He said he hoped that his fellow commissioners "will come back to the negotiating table in good faith to offer meaningful concessions."
The acquisition has been hung up because the two Democrats on the commission, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, have insisted that AT&T agree to conditions, including some allowances on the issue of network neutrality.
FCC General Counsel Samuel Feder recently submitted a letter clearing McDowell to participate, but the commissioner made it clear the letter did not make him feel comfortable enough to do so.