Consumer Groups Call for AOL-TW Probe


Four consumer groups are urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate
allegations that Time Warner Cable has refused to carry advertisements of phone
companies marketing competing high-speed Internet-access services.

The FTC received the request in a letter Monday sent by the Consumers Union,
the Consumer Federation of America, the Media Access Project and the Center for
Digital Democracy. They said the marketing restriction apparently violates the
letter and spirit of the FTC order approving America Online Inc.'s merger with
Time Warner Inc. last December.

'Time Warner Cable has denied requests for carriage of DSL
[digital-subscriber-line] advertisements in markets around the country. This
anti-competitive behavior appears to violate the letter of the consent decree,
as the decree provided an unmistakable requirement that AOL Time Warner must
promote the DSL services of other carriers,' the groups said.

The groups said the FTC's order specifically required AOL Time Warner to
market and promote DSL services to subscribers.

'It is hard to understand how the [FTC] could have intended anything but the
prevention of exactly the kind of behavior in which AOL Time Warner is
engaging,' the groups said.

At the time the merger was approved, it was widely believed that the FTC's
order was not an obligation on AOL Time Warner to accept the ads of competing
DSL providers, but an obligation not to withdraw from offering AOL's online
service over DSL lines that compete with Time Warner's Road Runner