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.

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