AT&T Opposes NorthPoint Deal


Washington-AT&T Corp. is urging the Federal Communications Commission to block Verizon Communications Inc.'s merger with NorthPoint Communications Inc., claiming the deal would lessen competition in the high-speed Internet access market.

Verizon, the regional Baby Bell, agreed to combine digital subscriber line operations with NorthPoint in August, creating a new company that would be 55 percent owned by Verizon.

San Francisco-based NorthPoint-which began operating in 1998 and has signed up 62,000 sub-scribers-relies on lines leased from Verizon and other incumbent phone carriers to reach end users. Former FCC chair-man Reed Hundt serves on NorthPoint's board of directors.

NorthPoint has also attracted investments and alliances from the likes of Microsoft Corp. and Cable & Wireless plc.

"The merger would eliminate one of Verizon's most significant DSL competitors," AT&T said in an Oct. 2 FCC filing, adding that NorthPoint had installed DSL equipment in 665 Verizon central offices. "Verizon and NorthPoint cannot credibly claim that they must combine to succeed as DSL service providers."

NorthPoint spokes-woman Caroline Howell said AT&T's opposition wasn't a surprise, because Verizon and NorthPoint will compete with that company for high-speed Internet customers.

"We are going to their biggest competitor for broadband," Howell said.