NARUC Neutral on DBS Merger

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A panel of state utility regulators voted Tuesday to remain neutral in the
controversy over EchoStar Communications Corp.'s bid to acquire Hughes
Electronics Corp., parent of DirecTV Inc.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners opted for a
neutral position in a resolution adopted by the NARUC's telecommunications
committee.

The panel's resolution declared that the NARUC should neither support nor
oppose the $25.8 billion direct-broadcast satellite merger.

But the resolution instructed the NARUC's general counsel to urge the Federal
Communications Commission to weigh the effects of the merger on broadband
competition in rural markets.

Both the FCC and the Department of Justice must approve the merger, which, as
proposed, would create a DBS giant with at least 14.9 million pay TV
subscribers.

The telecommunications panel, headed by Joan H. Smith of the Oregon Public
Utility Commission, sent the resolution to the NARUC's board of directors for a
second vote Wednesday.

'EchoStar applauds NARUC's resolution and agrees that the pending merger has
important implications for broadband competition in rural areas,' EchoStar
spokesman Marc Lumpkin said.

'We concur with their recommendation that the FCC should closely evaluate the
merger as it has numerous benefits, such as local TV channels in more cities and
competitive broadband service via satellite,' he added,

FCC commissioners Kevin Martin and Kathleen Abernathy, both Republicans, are
members of the NARUC telecommunications committee, according to the
association's Web site.

An aide to Abernathy said she did not participate in the DBS-merger
vote.

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