Washington, D.C. The Justice Department gave its unconditional approval to AT&T; Inc.'s buyout of BellSouth Corp. on Wednesday, a coast-to-coast behemoth that would be the largest U.S. provider of telephone, wireless and broadband Internet services.
The decision cheered company executives but outraged consumer advocates and some members of the Federal Communications Commission.
Despite the scale of the purchase, the Justice Department found no potentially adverse effects on competition.
The decision was immediately criticized by FCC member Jonathan S. Adelstein, a Democrat who called it "a reckless abandonment of DoJ's responsibility to protect competition and consumers."
If the deal wins final government approval, the merger would give San Antonio-based AT&T; Inc. total control over the nation's largest cellular provider, Cingular Wireless, a joint venture of the two companies that serves 57.3 million customers.