AOL Chief Works on Broadband Time


Facing a crowd for the first time as America Online's CEO, Jon Miller promised to keep his part of AOL Time Warner Inc. on a broadband track — one that's encountered tough going in the cable industry.

"Our commitment to broadband is clear and unwavering," Miller said in delivering the keynote address at the Fall Internet World conference Oct. 3. "Broadband encourages habitual behavior to be transformed into online habitual behavior. We're in it to win it."

Miller drew his broadband outlook in no-frills fashion, without the slide shows, videos and lofty revenue-per-subscriber estimates used at the same event a year ago by the man he replaced this summer, Robert Pittman.

Miller acknowledged that the No. 1 Internet-service provider is in its current shape in part due to a downturn in research and development investment — one of several actions taken by Pittman and his colleagues to make up for downturns in online advertising revenues and subscriber growth.

R&D spending will pick up, Miller said, leading to "a new revitalization" of AOL's broadband content.

A new AOL Broadband format — incorporating the high-speed version Time Warner Cable systems distribute and what AT&T Comcast Corp. systems will offer following the AT&T Broadband- Comcast Corp. merger — is scheduled to debut Oct. 15.

More than 4 million of AOL's U.S. customer base (around 28 million, according to recent published reports) gets the service via broadband connections, including Time Warner Cable's high-speed platform.

Miller noted that AOL's broadband circulation was far above that of Road Runner — the high-speed ISP co-owned by Time Warner Cable, with about 2 million cable customers.

With R&D back on track, AOL is developing 40 new video and audio features for broadband distribution. There will be more exclusive content, including entertainment, chat and instant messaging options.

Special community-driven features will become a key element of future broadband formats, Miller said.

He also hinted that several consumer-developed options might end up being premium options available for an additional charge. Miller declined to spell out what those features might be.

From here on in, AOL's broadband service will be structured to meet four consumer demands: More interactivity, more organization, greater ease of use and transformed lifestyle.

"They want voice, choice and a sense of empowerment," Miller noted. "They want community of a greater depth."

The new broadband product, associated with the release of AOL's new 8.0 format, "will demonstrate again that members rule, and ultimately, they'll go from their desktops and laptops to mobile phones and other devices," Miller suggested.