News

FCC Claims Legal Power Over IM

1/23/2001 2:11 AM Eastern

The Federal Communications Commission released the order Monday that approved
America Online Inc.'s merger with Time Warner Inc. and contained the agency's
legal basis for regulating instant-messaging services.

In the 144-page order, the FCC said IM fell within the legal definition of
'communication by wire.' The agency also said it had the power to regulate the
critical names and presence database (NPD) because the NPD represented a service
incidental to communication by wire.

Based on that finding, the agency said it did not have to decide whether IM
was an information service not normally regulated by the agency, a cable service
if offered over Time Warner Cable systems, or a telecommunications service.

On Jan. 11, the FCC approved the merger subject to a panoply of conditions.
Although the agency declined to regulate AOL Time Warner Inc.'s current IM
service, it said the combined company could not deploy advanced IM (such as
video streaming and videoconferencing) over its cable systems unless another
provider can interoperate with its service.

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