The group's exact position so far is vague. "I don't have an answer right now what package of remedies that will be pursued," Reback said.
Grivner and Reback said the group will try to make headway with the Justice Department's antitrust division, the FCC and selected lawmakers who can express to the regulators views sympathetic to the independents' cause.
"For the most part, this will be an inside game," Grivner said.
That will stand in sharp contrast to the usual fireworks in telecom lobbying. Since 1998, for instance, AT&T spent $75 million on federal lobbying, not far behind Verizon, according to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity. SBC spent $73 million.
XO's group will spend "millions of dollars, meaning more than 1 million," Grivner said.
Analysts said the independents probably hope to persuade the government to require the merged companies to give favorable, or at least flexible, treatment to their competitors and that they may succeed in doing so.
"They have little chance of blocking the mergers and a reasonable chance in getting them conditioned," said Scott Cleland, chief executive of the Precursor Group, a research company based in the District.
The other members of the group's legal team include former FCC chief economist Simon J. Wilkie, former FCC general counsel Christopher Wright and Brad E. Mutschelknaus of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP.