RealTime IT News

AOL Looking to the Sky?

As America Online Inc. expands its services in all directions, the only way left to go is up.

The company is reportedly considering a deal with satellite service DirecTV for high-speed Internet connectivity via DirecTV's satellite network. Although company officials at both organizations refuse to comment on the possible deal, their actions speak louder than their words.

In addition to the mega-merger between AOL and Netscape, the company has also positioned itself to augment its connections to customers interested in high-speed Internet access.

The company announced last week an agreement with Bell Atlantic to provide high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) access to AOL subscribers in the Northeast. Bob Pittman, AOL's president and chief operating officer, said at the time that AOL has a commitment to provide access to members seeking faster connection speeds.

A company initiative, known as "AOL Anywhere" is also being developed to provide universal connectivity to any Web-based device, according to spokeswoman Jeanie Ryan.

DSL and cable modems are currently the high-speed connections of choice, but DirecTV is in a position to lend its satellite service as an alternative to service providers, especially for those living outside cities.

A proposed deal with Microsoft to create a PC card capable of receiving satellite Web data fell through, leaving DirecTV and its parent, Hughes Electronics with the technology, but no partner.

Analysts say a deal with AOL and its 15 million members would be a match made in heaven.

"This would be just standard programming logic," said Steve Blum, president of satellite consulting firm Tellus Venture Associates, in published reports. "It's a little like saying HBO is going to be offered over DirecTV."