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AT&T Renews Vows to Excite@Home

Corporate partnerships between Internet industry giants are starting to play like a poorly written soap opera, while industry experts speculate about AT&T Corp. and Excite@Home's fragile working relationship.

In a move to quash industry-wide rumors that the once storybook business affair between AT&T and Excite has lost its luster, AT&T Monday reiterated it plans to honor its current contract with Excite@Home, including its exclusivity provisions.

Industry experts speculate that AT&T may have gone courting America Online Inc. for a broadband deal that could have undermined Excite's leading role as the top portal for enriched web content.

Restating its vow for mutual exclusivity with Excite@Home, an AT&T spokesperson said the company would continue to work closely with Excite to make broadband content available over their cable infrastructure.

At the same time, AT&T defended its right to establish discussions with other Internet service providers for developing diverse broadband content. While there have been meetings with AOL in the recent past, there is no specific proposal currently under discussion between the two companies.

AT&T reaffirmed that the company anticipates a long-term relationship with Excite@Home. However, new commercial relationships may be in the works for AT&T as it looks to replace Excite with a new portal-powered partner, after their contract with them expires.

AT&T remains the controlling shareholder in Excite@Home. Friction between top executives at of the two companies was last week reported as the motivation behind a potential deal between Exite and Yahoo!

George Bell, Excite@Home's chief executive officer denied that the company was in buyout discussions with Yahoo!, However, he said Excite@Home had spoken with Yahoo!, America Online, Inc. and other Internet companies about taking a high profile spot on the Excite portal.