And then there were three

Sources say AT&T is closing in on BellSouth, in a deal worth a $65 billion.

Such a move would give AT&T/SBC coverage in wireline across the nation, as well as bring together the owners of Cingular Wireless (which purchased AT&T’s wireless offering not too long ago).

Any deal would require approval from antitrust authorities as well as the Federal Communications Commission.

“The deal is likely to be approved,” said Blair Levin, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus and a former Federal Communications Commission chief of staff. “The government has already given us a road map and it had very few speedbumps and much less brick walls for this kind of transaction.”

He said the government would likely seek similar conditions to this transaction that were placed on the AT&T-SBC deal, which included providing competitors access to some buildings, some price controls, and ensuring customers have unfettered access to the Internet.

You have to love the “unfettered access to the Internet” part. BellSouth is exactly the ones screaming for more dough from content providers while they haphazardly drop prices to consumers, all the while complaining that they can’t recover bandwidth costs.

If there was a really good way to stifle telecomm innovation while positioning one’s self to cram more internet control down consumers’ and content providers’ throats, this is it. But none of that is for certain.

The only thing in fact that is for certain – another big round of layoffs.

***UPDATE***

Now it is official (I guess). And the grand tally, $67 billion. I might also note that “$18 billion in synergies” is a hell of a lot of severance packages.

***UPDATE 2***

Via Bloomberg:

AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. telephone company, plans to eliminate about 10,000 jobs after completing the $67 billion purchase of BellSouth Corp.

The acquisition will cement AT&T’s position as the dominant U.S. provider of local, long-distance and wireless calling and enable it to better fend off new competition from cable-television companies and Internet calling companies.

And how does owning more of the same allow you to “fend off new competition,” particular as the existing competitive product you have sounds like it sucks.