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What Was Behind Schr�der 's Support for AOL?

The surprising intervention by German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in favor of the online service AOL has taken on an unpleasant aftertaste in retrospect.

In an interview with AOL for the "open house day" in the Chancellery, Schröder gave massive support to the Internet provider's demand for a so-called "flat rate." The "flat rate" is "a good thing, and AOL is right in demanding it," said the Chancellor during the interview which the online service broadcast over the Internet.

At the following reception, Schröder offered to act as a mediator in the argument with Deutsche Telekom, which up to now has demanded DM 160 (US$73.84) per customer per month from AOL for a fixed line capacity of 64 kilobits. AOL demands that this price be at least halved. The "Berliner Zeitung" commented that Schröder's testimony "won more than just a few points for the online service," and it was surprised that Schrvder "apparently couldn't care less about the performance of federal assets" -- meaning the state-owned Telekom stock.

This is not entirely true, for AOL helped to secure federal assets at the Chancellor's celebrations. As one of three main sponsors, the company donated DM 500,000 (US$230,771) so that the spectacle would succeed. "In return," an AOL manager told the news magazine "Der Spiegel," AOL received both "exclusive Internet rights" for the marketing of the celebration and the exclusive interview with the Chancellor. AOL, too, was surprised that Schröder came down on the side of the generous donor during the interview. "I was completely flabbergasted," said an employee who was present. "The Chancellor can apparently be had cheap..." said an insider.