RealTime IT News

AOL Broadband Gets New Chief

Last year Audrey Weil was named AOL Broadband president, charting her high-speed Internet division's course through a regulatory landmine; in two months' time she'll be stepping down.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, the resignation is voluntary. An e-mail the new organization obtained said "Audrey has asked to take a well-deserved break and will do so beginning this May," said Mike Kelly, AOL Broadband chief operating officer.

Replacing Weil is Lisa Hook, president of AOL Anywhere, who took the division's charter to expand the Internet outside the PC and into Internet appliances, pagers, telephones and wireless digital phones.

Hook is a relative newcomer in the AOL ranks, joining the ISP in 2000, though she has been in the telecommunications and media industry for years. She will need to take that experience to jumpstart AOL Broadband's subscriber rates down the road.

Despite the popularity of its Road Runner cable Internet services, broadband growth rates in the U.S. and abroad have been slow. Combined with increasing competition and saber-rattling by its arch-nemesis, the telephone companies and its digital subscriber line (DSL) service, Hook needs to find a way to get more customers signed to its own branded vision of high-speed service.

AOL, which has more than 33 million dial-up customers around the world, has had a tough time getting customers to switch to its high-speed option. Priced around $45-50 a month, many have balked. And AOL Broadband's entry into DSL, an agreement with Qwest Communications last year, hasn't panned out as originally planned.

Hook will also need to pick up where Weil left off in providing competitive access to Time Warner Cable's network.

Over the past months, Weil has been instrumental in ensuring the broadband unit complied with stipulations in last year's merger of AOL and Time Warner, the largest of its kind in U.S. history.

The Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission set guidelines to the merger, notably to allow competitive Internet service providers (ISPs) access to Time Warner Cable's nationwide cable network. The cable outfit is the second-largest in the nation, behind AT&T Broadband, and regulators were concerned the marriage of AOL's "New Media" Internet savvy and Time Warner's "Old Media" publications and cable network would create a monopoly in the industry.

Weil quickly got competitors to the table, signing a bunch of them to access agreements that kept regulators off AOL/TW's back and allowed the company to roll out its own cable Internet services.

Weil, who started work at AOL (before the Internet was a household name) in 1988, has been a top-level manager since the beginning. Before taking the wheel at AOL Broadband, she served as senior vice president of AOL services, senior vice president of brand marketing and president of CompuServe.

According to the WSJ, Weil plans on returning later this year in an undetermined capacity.