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RealTime IT News

FCC Nixes AOL Cable Campaign

The Federal Communications Commission is not expected to act on a request from America Online Inc. which is asking regulators to require cable companies to open their networks to other Internet providers and online services.

AOL and other Internet providers formed the Open Net coalition to lobby the FCC, hoping to force cable operators to open their networks to "narrowband" companies such as AOL. The issue was initially raised by AOL upon the announcement of the AT&T/TCI merger. AOL asked the FCC to approve open access in its review of the merger.

AOL isn't betting on cable alone, however. On Jan. 13, the online giant reached a deal with Bell Atlantic to offer AOL to Bell Atlantic customers served by Digital Subscriber Line. Bell Atlantic will offer the high-speed access to subscribers in its major markets as DSL becomes available.

America Online said DSL access will cost less than $20 more than its analog rates. The companies plan to co-market the service to AOL members and Bell Atlantic will be able to market optional products and services to AOL customers.

Other Internet companies are quickly aligning themselves with cable providers, as evidenced in the recent of high-speed cable provider @Home's acquisition of AOL rival Excite. Further muddying the picture is TCI's huge stake in @Home, in the AT&T/TCI pending merger.

The FCC's report to Congress on the open access issue is to be released later Thursday and reportedly will recommend monitoring the situation, without proposing taking any regulatory action.