AT&T Broadband's merger with Comcast Corp. should be denied approval
until the companies submit the high-speed Internet-access agreement reached with
AOL Time Warner Inc. as part of the restructuring of Time Warner Entertainment,
various consumer groups told the Federal Communications Commission Thursday.
The groups -- the Media Access Project, the Consumers Union and the Consumer
Federation of America -- said the FCC should demand a copy of the agreement and
allow the groups to review it.
Among other things, the groups said, the AOL agreement could run afoul of
federal merger conditions in previous cable mergers involving AT&T Corp. and
AOL Time Warner.
On Aug. 26, Comcast submitted the TWE restructuring agreement to the FCC, but
it did not include the appendix that contains the terms of the America Online
Inc. carriage deal. The deal was a breakthrough for AOL, which had been unable
to come to terms with any non-Time Warner Cable systems.
Relying on press reports, the consumer groups insisted that AOL Time Warner
received highly unfavorable terms from AT&T Comcast Corp.
They said the deal transformed AOL's high-speed service in a business-model
sense from an interactive data service to a premium-movie channel. As a result,
the groups said, the commission must review the agreement to determine whether
AT&T Comcast would possess the market power to rewrite the business plans of
competing broadband providers seeking access to its cable