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The Almighty Buck

U.S. Preparing To Block AOL / Time-Warner Deal 130

Tuzanor writes: "Yahoo! is reporting that government officials are preparing to block the AOL-Time Warner deal if an agreement over Internet access isn't made in 2 weeks." I'd feel a lot better about this merger if local cable (like Time-Warner has such a big hand in) itself faced tougher competition than it does right now.
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U.S. Preparing To Block AOL / Time-Warner Deal

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    BTW, is anybody else incensed that AOL started using CD's a couple years back? I can't format the disks and use them any more, so end up getting a free coaster about every week or so. They're starting to pile up!

    Why are you such an annoying whiner? If the CDs are starting to pile up, why not throw them away, like most of us do? What are you keeping them for? An why would you be "incensed" at receiving CDs instead of disks? Do you have a right to free disks?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I hope this sets the story straight on the extremely jingoistic article posted around a month ago :- EU Objects To AOL-Time Warner Merger []. I never saw a "FCC and FTC put AOL-Time Warner merger under increased scrutiny" story posted on the front page, I think it's fair to say the only reason for posting the said story was to provoke the typical US v. Euro tribal war..

    The EU have now approved the merger now TimeWarner called off the deal with EMI. Since the case is still under review by the FTC, I think it's fair to say the EU had good grounds to also investigate this deal, it's a shame people couldn't look past their nose and realise this.
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • The notion of a complete range of content belonging to one company is something that I recall being discussed over six years ago. People worried that a sole company could manage to control, essentially, all points of an average person's day on the web. Well, it's completely plausible now.

    Picture, if you will. A user starts on AOL, and, without ever leaving the AOL revenue stream (Ad banners and affiliates) they get news from a dozen diffrent sources. Entertainment and TV/Movie info, running web searches, buying products, etc. And if they really wanted to, AOL could make life really interesting by mandating that no AOL-owned website may link to a non-AOL-owned website. Think it could never happen? Don't kid yourself, folks, it's easier than you may think.
  • ... Andover.Net received permission to acquire open source oriented for an undisclosed sum in stock and cash despite Andover.Net's already substantial web site holdings. No FTC concessions required.

    ... VA Linux received permission to acquire the combined Andover.Net/slashdot conglomerate, adding these web sites to its and sourceforge holdings to create the dominant open source web company. Note that all these companies are for-profit, investor owned entities. No FTC investigation or concessions required.

    ... Red Hat acquires Cygnus Solutions, creating the dominant open source software company and establishing ownership over the development team for the critical GCC development toolchain. No investigation or concessions required.

    I think it's odd that we see all these open-sourcers jumping all over corporate mergers when their own small section of the software world is dominated by a handful of players, especially Red Hat and VA. Best to first take the log out of your own eyes, boys.
  • Surely you herd how IBM Apple and Microsoft were about to merge ?

    Apparently the feds are going to block this move not because of antirust isues but becauase the resulting desktop system wold inherit the dominace of Windows but incorporate the faliurs of OS/2 and MacOS with the varius Windows problems.

    The other problem is that the AOL/WB deal wold see Neo making "me too" posts and Trinity asking "How dose RTFM work ?"

    to say nothing of the horor Bugs Bunney wold become :)
  • $30/per and 25% of ad revenues doesn't sound too outrageous to me, given the heavy capital costs of building/upgrading the cable plant. Given MediaOne charges me $40/mo for cable modem service, that leaves $10/mo plus 75% of ad revenues to play with, which, given how cheap telephone modem based service is getting (and T3/dialup/etc charges drop out), seems pretty reasonable. Or, if T3 charges still apply, it's *still* a good deal. (Remember kids, the customer doesn't have to dedicate a $20/mo telephone line to Internet service anymore.)

    Not good enough for you? Get your local governments to stop granting legal monopolies in exchange for taxes... er, "franchise fees", and let competing cable companies set up shop with their own plant. Maybe someone will have the brains to do full-blown fiber-to-the-home. "Why yes, I *would* like a 100Mbps pipe to the Internet..."
  • Until the federal government can pass even a single independent audit (ha!), it should take its sticky dirty fingers off the industry and leave us alone. Let the market decide on whether AOL/Time Warner is good for consumers. And yes while Microsoft sucks in so many ways, the split was ill-advised. Fortunately it now appears that Microsoft will win on appeal anyway
  • well the federal government is the largest monopoly in the country. When will that monopoly be broken up hmm????
  • So do you want anybody who wants to start a cable company to be able to dig a trench across your front yard to bury their cable a week after someone else did the same thing a week after someone else did the same thing, etc., or do you want no companies able to do so in order to offer you cable service?
  • "What, are you worried you might not get your Urkel re-runs?"

    More like worried that with a single company (which) would own every entertainment medium on the planet - movies, music, radio, web you'd be unable to get anything but that if that was what they wanted to give you.

  • "They built the cable lines, why should they have to share them?"

    How about because they get to dig up my front yard to run them whether I like it or not, but nobody else gets to run any?

  • Better yet, wait for the merger and just shove 'em into any Time-warner Cable van you see.
  • I don't want an all-fiber network. I want the phone system I have now-copper wire with a big ol' bunch of batteries that'll still work (at least around town and to 911) when the next hurricane takes out Carolina Power & Light and Time-Warner Cable. I can manage with rabbit ears and a generator for the duration, but tin cans and string stretched between me and the police or fire dept. just ain't gonna cut it.
  • "If people want cable, let them build their own lines"

    Time-Warner has already paid local government their bribe (franchise fee, which they turn around and charge to the customers) which lets them be the only ones who can legally do that.

  • While it may be true that the Atlanta government is a mess (I don't live there, so I don't know), the fact is that you, as a citizen of Atlanta, are your own goverment.

    Sieze power.

  • It certainly is necessary and practical. The cable infrastructure which carries information to the people is every bit as important as the road, sewer, water distribution, and garbage collection services which are already run by local governments. These functions are often contracted to private entities, but the fact remains that they are operated by the people and in the people's interest.
  • You've completely missed the point of my proposal. My proposal allows for each individual to make up his own mind about what services he wants running down that wire. It is the ultimate control.

    Regarding cable television, I agree that the technology means that your decision has to be shared with other people. The solution is to abandon the dying broadcast technologies and run very high bandwidth fiber end to end. Technology will make this possible soon. At any rate, the less television you watch the better. :)

  • Again you have missed my point. I do *not* think that the local government should be operating a single router, switch, or DNS server. They should *only* be in the business of running wires from point A to point B, and leasing floor space at point A to whatever private group wants it. Competition is impeded because of the enormous hurdle that new competitors must jump by trenching streets to run new cable. By operating the cable infrastructure itself, governments could open competition more widely.

    Your anti-socialism mechanism is producing false positives.

  • by Jeffrey Baker ( 6191 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @08:25AM (#704744)
    I'd feel a lot better about cable operations if the people owned their own cable plants. That is, I believe it would be ideal for the citizens of a city to own and operate the cable television, telephone, and electric facilities in their city via their local government.

    In such a system, open access would be the norm. Service providers would have equal access to the "other end" of the cables running into every home, and the citizen who was served by that cable would make the decision to hook it up to one or the other.

    Hopefully in such a system, we wouldn't have pointlessly diverse content delivery systems (coax, twisted pair, circuit switched, packet switched, etc.), but instead be blessed with an all-fiber network that runs right into the point of delivery.

    Doesn't anyone else think that the people should empower themselves this way?

  • And how many millions of citizens go through VA, Red Hat, or (heaven forbid) Slashdot for information about civil rights violations in the Sudan or (at least supposedly) intelligent reporting on political candidates? And can you tell me exactly what percentage of both content and delivery methods for that content are controlled by VA or Red Hat? There's a really big difference between a couple of relatively small potatoes software vendors (no flames please) and a behemoth news/entertainment/distribution conglomerate.
  • Because AT&T don't control content PRODUCTION. That's the real problem here. Personally, if this were simply a matter of two large delivery systems companies merging, I wouldn't care at all (and neither would the FTC in all likelihood). However, since AOL/Time-Warner will combine delivery (AOL's networks and user base, Time-Warner's cable networks and user base) with content (Time-Warner's incredibly large media and content holdings, which include almost every form of content: books, magazines, movies, television, news casting, music, and possibly even shamanism channeling) the whole thing becomes a lock-down on media in this country.
  • I know what you're getting at here but the problems with having more than one utility provide cabling and service to an area make this impractical.
  • I think it was supposed to be a joke.
  • I expect that it was moderated as a troll because there's no moderation option for "One-line comment pounded out as fast as possible in order to be the first post."

    Although I'd have probably used "Overrated".

    Charles Miller
  • Saying "Anyone can start their own Microsoft" is just like saying "Any US citizen can become president." In theory it's true, but in practice, it's laughable.

    In one hundred years time, people will look back on the 20th/21st century obsession with letting corporations do whatever the hell they want in the same way as we now look back on the "Divine Right of Kings".

    They'll wonder why the hell people who are so willing to put immense restrictions (e.g. the US Constitution) on an elected government would be so religiously opposed to putting restrictions on un-elected businesses, who often have /more/ influence over our daily lives, and certainly have a huge influence over who sits in government.

    Charles Miller

  • um, redhat control gcc now? doesn't seem like it

    not that i agree (tho i do hate the big ugly grey OSDN banners on t.o) but i hear plenty of bitching over VA...
  • The US is a free enough country that anyone can start their own AOL, Microsoft, Time/Warner or whatever. These compaines are not monopolies, they have lots of competition. If you let the Government push around the companies you don't like, soon they'll start pushing around the companies you do like.
  • by RayChuang ( 10181 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @10:34AM (#704753)

    The reason why the FTC may block the America Online/Time-Warner is more than just cable modem access.

    The big issue here is the fact that between the resources of AOL and Time-Warner, they would create the world's most powerful corporation in terms of control of mass media.

    If you look at the combined assets of AOL and Time-Warner, the result is ownership of a very sizeable fraction of the means to create media content AND distribute it. AOL is the world's largest Internet Service Provider (no contest), especially with their purchases of CompuServe, Netscape, ICQ, WinAmp, MapQuest and a few other Internet companies. Time-Warner has a massively powerful presence in movie and television program production, most of the influential cable TV channels (CNN Networks, HBO Networks, Turner Broadcasting), their own TV network, ownership of many cable systems in the USA, a book division, a major periodicals division, and a major producer of popular music.

    Is it small wonder why if AOL and Time-Warner merged it would have made the company created by the fictional Elliot Carver from the James Bond movie TOMORROW NEVER DIES a very distinct a frightening reality? AOL Time Warner could have wielded the power to have a major say in what we see in the movie theatres and TV, what books and periodicals we read, what web sites we can visit and what music we can hear. Talk about potential abuse of First Amendment rights! (shudder)

  • I don't care.

    The power of the press has always belonged to those who owned one.

    AOL/TW are going to be in every damn living room and theatre and TV set.

    Except mine, I guess. I don't own one! :-) And I get my fun from the Web and from MP3s.

    Its not as if we didn't have a choice NOT to go there. We just have to insure that they can't choke off everywhere else to go to (Sort of like the RIAA & MPAA and other neo-Ludddites.)
  • Oh, I agree that cable reguation is all f*ed up, and that things like the telcomm act of 96 have made things worse, not better.

    Even so, I have doubts that TW has made their 13% profit back on the cable wiring side of their business. Instead, they have built a system where the real profits come from the content side, and they've used that content to subsidize the actual infrstructure costs. AT+T bleeds money off on their cable operations.

    As far as competition goes, the system is already sorta "open" in the sense that the telephone companies have full rights to deliver television and data services to you. They also have the capital to do so. But, yet how many people in the US can get TV from the local Bell? Almost no one -- primarily because the Bells know that they'd never make their money back from infrastructure investment.

    So, yeah, cable sucks because it's *expensive* to run coax to everyone's house when only 50% of the people will subscribe. (Cable Internet services are really just an incentive to get more people onto the TV system.) No amount of regulation is really going to change that.
  • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @12:01PM (#704756) Journal
    A monopoly francise made perfect sense back in the 1980s when the cable system was being built out. Running wire to every home is an expensive proposition, and even then, adoption rates were far less than the companies expected. It took most companies years and years to make back their initial investment, usually not before getting bought out by someone huge like AT+T or TimeWarner who could carry the humongous debt load safely.

    Keep in mind, cable TV is not exactly an essential service. Maybe a high speed Internet infrastructure will be in the future, but I don't think you can really make that argument right now.

    Things like DSL or electric utiltity competition aren't a real solution either -- they primarily shift the edge costs of billing and customer service to other companies and don't address the real infrastructure costs. DSL is getting a real free ride because the copper networks were built out at great expense years ago, and it's only the fact that they've already been paid for many times over that DSL can get away with it's pricing system. (The wiring in my building and the telephone poles outside carrying my DSL was put in the 1920s, for example.)

    The only real solution to the "last mile monopoly" problem is wireless. One big reason people the government is trying to auction of spectrum blocks is to let this problem resolve itself without having to regulate big contributers like TW or the Bells.
  • OK, Mr. Clever. If you'd slowed down for three seconds, you might have had the revelatory thought that a combined AOL-Time Warner merger would not only control entertainment, but also more important forms of information such as news and Internet access. Granted, it's difficult to censor the Internet, but it's unnecessary to truly censor it in order to control what people see. People are lazy, and if it's easy to read what AOL puts in front of you and more work to go read The Nation, people will choose the easy alternative. The result of media conglomeration is a decrease in the number and force of conflicting views. Go read Chomsky or Project Censored to find out about these phenomena from reputable, non-conspiracy-theorist sources. If you're not worried about stifled voices, go check out the TV news, and compare it with the New York Times. Now pretend Hard Copy is all you can get, without going to a lot of trouble. Worried now?
  • No monopoly, is good monopoly!
  • by Pope ( 17780 )
    This sounds like high-order BS to me, or another lame 'net legend like the email tax.


    Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength! Monopolies offer Choice!
  • Agreed. I dpn't mind subsidizing CSPAN, but why must I pay for MTV and all that other dreck...

    Of course, I have DirecTV, which gives me more channels and orders of magnitude better reception for about 2/3 the price.

  • in response to the sig (and mr. wright)

    2000 version of quote
    if at first you don't succeed, keep the evidence as prior art :)
  • Are you this guy []?

  • If this strict interpetation of fidicuary responsiblity was correct, then Cisco management should be in prison for abiding by open IETF protocols instead of embracing and extending them into a proprietary control of the Internet (which was easily in their grasp to do over the last decade).

    Cisco didn't go that route, for some linear combination of realizing growing the pie bigger was better than owning the whole pie, and the avoidance of inevitable anti-trust. Such nuanced decisions are part and parcel of managing a corporation -- as would AOL Time Warner supporting open access. In neither case would a "fidicuary responsibility" lawsuit arise.

  • i was really going to moderate this story, but i couldn't help but comment.

    BAD IDEA!!!

    One aspect of government in America, one of the few duties I believe it SHOULD perform, is to protect the rights of the minority. That is a key aspect of life in America: majority rule, with protection of minority rights!!! Its hard enough for those of us in the bible belt to keep what services are available despite arcane biblical restrictions against them, without taking away what rights the minority has to those services. For instance, I like strip clubs. God help me, I like naked women. Many people don't, and that's fine. There is no law that says they have to attend services at Rick's Cabaret on saturday nights. But if the bible-thumpers had their way, no one would be able to enjoy that activity. Porn on the internet would be outlawed, gambling, as well as any number of other activities.

    Back to cable, i used to live in an apartment complex with its own cable system. there were a lot of old people there, and what young people did live there usually had younger school age children, say, 5 to 12 years old. These people found channels like MTV and Comedy Central to be either offensive or dangerous to young minds, so they successfully lobbied the complex to remove those channels from the lineup. So now nobody has the option of watching them. God help me I haven't seen South Park in four years! (or however long its been since it started) That's not just wrong, its un-frikkin-American!

    so that's why this idea, though well-intentioned, should NEVER be implemented. Aside from that, its also rather socialistic in nature and I disagree with that as well, but that's a little off-topic. Now i've got to go find a new story to moderate.
  • AOL has over 30 million users of its on-line service. Time Warner has even more users of its cable services. The fact that the two companies want to come together, coupled by the fact that Internet services and cable providers are also coming together, means a possible monopoly situation in cable Internet service.

    Linux has less than 10 million users in the United States, and of those a relatively small number rely on the products and services of VA Linux and GCC is of interest to the development community; some end-user distributions don't even install it by default.

    Take the fog out of your eyes. AOL-Time Warner affects mainstream America in an enormous way. Linux companies buying each other out affect a very small portion of the market. Cable Internet access is developing much more quickly than Linux, particularly in the home market. We will be seeing a lot more people complaining that they have no alternative to AOL-Time Warner cable access than people complaining about the lack of a good development tool for Linux.

    Besides, if you're so concerned about VA Linux and Red Hat dominating their so-called "industries," why don't you write a letter to the FTC? One of the principal reasons why this AOL-Time Warner investigation is proceeding is because so many people voiced objections to it. If enough people cried foul over the VA Linux acquisitions, then the FTC would have investigated them too.
  • by jefe289 ( 34351 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @09:30AM (#704766)
    Hey people....

    We have a tendency to criticize quickly and then forget to complement. I think most of us agree that unless competition is protected, the merger should not go through.

    I know we squabble about the issues surrounding the periphery, but lets please thank those deserving the credit [] for doing their job correctly: preserving justice and freedom.
  • I'm no too impressed with these arguments. Since the growth of the internet, I've got greater access to a huge variety of mass media.

    Ten years ago, if I wanted to find out information on problems in the Middle East, I could go to ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, AP, Reuters, NY Times and that's about it. Now, just for starters I've got:

    And those are links off of Yahoo's "full coverage" page. These are not obscure sources.

    People bemoan the changes in the Telecommunications Act that removed restrictions on ownership of television and radio stations, but we've got more choice now than we've ever had.

    Sure maybe people don't take advantage of these alternative sources of media, but it's not up to the government to force them. Alternative information and viewpoints have never been more readily available.


  • So they're a big corporation ... who cares? I started using their digital cable service at the beginning of the summer, and I've been more than satisfied with it. Heck, my monthly bill actually went down by $3 in August.

    The only gripe I have is with cable itself ... why do I have to pay for 50+ channels if I never watch more than ten of them? I think a pick-and-choose cable service would be better (though I'd imagine it might put some channels out of business) for the consumer.
  • I like the idea of a fibre line with 2 small power lines attached to it.
    Life is a race condition: your success or failure depends on whether you get the work done on time.
  • So, what you're saying is that it doesn't matter how good an idea is, if the communists thought of it first, the rest of us CAN'T do it??? WTF?

    Life is a race condition: your success or failure depends on whether you get the work done on time.
  • by Wog ( 58146 )
    What I always hated was the fact that they needed to switch to CDs in the first place. Getting a friend set up with email, graphical web browsing, chat, etc off of a floppy was really nice.

    These days, you're right - everyone has coasters. Now, if they shipped their software on ZIP disks...
  • I mean, these CEOs are "supposed" to think when they're buying a company or merging with another one, right? They're supposed to plan everything! Why didn't thet plan THAT! Why don't they go to the courts first and ask : can we do it? That would save them a lot of time, and for their best interrests, a lot of money. Even tough AOL is a very arrogant company, didn't the CEO even think a minute : "Hey, are we be controling too much information for the governement's taste? Maybe we should ask first before spending millions of hard *cough-cough* earned money!?!"

  • You are totally right, we had the same kind of problem here in Quebec recently, where the largest cable provider (Videotron) was bought by the largest newspaper/magazine/tv-network (Quebecor) company. Eventualy, Quebecor had to sell their TV-Network division, since Videotron already owned TVA, the most popular TV network in Quebec.

    For the AOL Time Warner deal, I wasn't getting the whole picture, since AOL and Time Warner are not too much in Canada (I'd be really surprised to find someone who subscribed to AOL Canada here in Quebec, when you can have cable modem for 30$/month).
    Nice comment Ray!
  • Forget to say also in my last post, that the governement over here ordered Videotron, the largest cable provider, to give away 15% or 20% for free of their network, so that other ISP using cable modem could exist. Even tough Videotron is still the largest high speed provider in Quebec, small companies offering similar deals are starting to emerge and are showing profit right now, using the free network.
  • I live in Tacoma, WA, USA, where the residents were so sick of the local cable franchise (TCI, now AT&T) they empowered the local electric utility to install and operate an alternative cable infrastructure, the Click! Network [].

    The utility provides digital cable television service (and bills for it, across the hall from where you pay your light bill if you do it in person) but has stayed out of the ISP business, instead leasing the lines to local ISPs (basic consumer service starts at ~1MB down/128K up, goes on from there) at VERY competitive rates.

    I don't know what the effect of redundant wires is on the big-picture costs, but eliminating the monopoly on cable access (and building a network that can actually support the advertised bandwidth usage rather than overselling it by a factor of 10 makes it competitive with DSL in terms of consistent QOS too) has had a predictably positive effect on the cost and quality of local TV and broadband net service.
  • OK, that's certainly less objectionable, but there still is no reason a private company couldn't negotiate rights-of-way, run the wires and resell the use to other companies.

    Qwest did something similar on a national scale... they negotiated rights-of-way with railroad lines, and they now resell dark fiber to other telecom providers.

  • So do you want anybody who wants to start a cable company to be able to dig a trench across your front yard to bury their cable a week after someone else did the same thing a week after someone else did the same thing, etc., or do you want no companies able to do so in order to offer you cable service?

    AFAIK, no cable co. can dig your lawn without your permission. A friend of mine got cable run to his house once, and they had to ask his neighbor's permission to dig a trench across his lawn. This is as it should be, IMHO. If it is your lawn in question you can either tell them 'no', or negotiate a fee for allowing them to dig.

    Anyway, cable companies generally don't run cable to homes on speculation, except in new developments where the place is already dug up anyway. They only dig when you request to be connected.

  • Doesn't anyone else think that the people should empower themselves this way?

    I'd prefer to see the elimination of laws that prevent competition in the cable industry. I don't believe that operating a telecom company (or sports stadium, golf course, etc.) is a proper function of government, nor is it necessary or practical.

  • It certainly is necessary and practical.

    Of course telecom infrastructure is necessary, or at least desirable. My point was that state ownership of the means of production is neither necessary nor economically advantageous. Would you agree that competitive private enterprise invariably produces goods and services of lower cost and higher quality than do government monopolies?

    they are operated by the people and in the people's interest.

    It would be nice if that were always true. Unfortunately public services often end up being operated by politicians, for politicians. There is less accountability than in the private sector, lots of mismanagement, and sometimes even outright corruption. Outsourcing to private firms helps somewhat, but still leaves room for contract padding and old-boy networks.

    Again, I'd like to see cable television deregulated and opened up to competition. The state should at most sell right-of-way trench and pole access at-cost, to all companies who want to pay for it. It should not be in the business of running a head end, routers, uplinks, proxy servers, billing systems, etc. Private ISPs already do a great job - why would we want the government to take over control of a healthy, competitive industry? That makes no sense whatsoever.

    Socialism is a failure. Acknowledge and move on.

  • Does anyone seriously propose that competing companies build alternative roads to your house and that they compete freely?!

    Not really. While that scenario might work for interstate highways, turnpikes, etc. I agree that it's quite unworkable for the last mile... but here's a workable solution that may not have occurred to you: private homeowners' associations already build and maintain roads infrastructure for tens of thousands of neighborhoods in the U.S. The homeowners' associations are a form of privately-run democratic government at the neighborhood level. Within the scope of the groups' charters, contracts serve in place of land-use laws, and dues serve in place of taxes. Of course there is a need for some entity to enforce the contracts, and that's where government comes in.

  • Other than cable, both companies pretty much have very dominating (but not monopolistic) stakes in their industries. I wonder where these companies plan to take this....

  • And thus you prove his point.
  • by Col. Panic ( 90528 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @08:29AM (#704783) Homepage Journal
    First Microsoft and now this. I'm actually getting warm fuzzies from the government!
  • Socialism is a failure. Acknowledge and move on.

    Aha. <sarcasm> That must explain why all those european countries with socialized medicine have such low lifespans, low vaccination rates, and high infant moratility. </sarcasm>

    There are certain things, such as infrastructure, that often work better under public control than private. Nationalizing the cable lines might not be a bad idea.

  • "Green has lived without television since 1989, when his then-girlfriend moved out and took her set with her."

    Isn't it quite obvious that this sad and lonely guy is suffering from post-traumatic stress from when his ex-girlfriend dumped him, taking his TV with her. Now he thinks he has a life, something meaningful to do everyday. I really pity such abnormal behaviour, we all should do. However, I'm scared too. It's not hard to imagine such freaks at a kindergarten spraying bullets at all the small innocent kids.

    - Steeltoe

    Uuuuhu, even my brother don't own a television set, so there ;-)

  • The idea that a single company would own every entertainment medium on the planet - movies, music, radio, web - doesn't scare you enough?

    Scared? About this crap? "movies, music, radio, web" - Is that all there is to your life? When was the last time you powered down what Douglas Coupland referred to as "the entertainment totem" and went outside for some fresh air? Visit a LIBRARY? Take a walk in the park? Go to a MUSEUM? Ride a bicycle? Call a friend? Do some volunteer work? Attend a student recital at the music school of the nearest university? You said "movies" - ever watch a film-school student's class project? Way more interesting than anything TW/AOL could ever dish out.

    This reminds me about the part of the first Wayne's World movie where the arcade owner talks about his customers hitting the bar to get another pellet.

    Time-Warner and AOL serve "entertainment" (your word, not mine) pellets to the willing rats.

    If you are reading Slashdot, you just might be lucky enough to have the mental horsepower to rise above the mainstream schlock TW/AOL push down the pipe at you.

    What, are you worried you might not get your Urkel re-runs? The new hit song by the next chest-implanted 16-year old pop star? Is that what you want?

    Put down the remote or the mouse or whatever, and think about what's really important. Is all this hand-wringing over this deal really worth it? Are the forms of passive so-called "entertainment" that TW/AOL serve the most important things in your life? Maybe that junk is entertaining to you...

  • AOL-Time Warner merger would not only control entertainment, but also more important forms of information such as news...

    As if the BBC, the Christian Science Monitor, and all affiliates of the Corporation For Public Broadcasting would suddenly disappear into thin air the instant the merger was finalized. Right.

    People are lazy, and if it's easy to read what AOL puts in front of you and more work to go read The Nation, people will choose the easy alternative.

    This means the people are making a voluntary choice. They are choosing to be lazy. They have to accept the consequences of that choice. TW/AOL is not the one making a choice. People have the individual responsibility to seek out objective sources of information. I hardly think TW/AOL (or the government, for that matter) can or should be entrusted, expected, nor legislated into doing that. If you look to TW/AOL to spoon feed you your news and other information, then you deserve what you get.

    Big media is not your mommy, despite what all the new-age, new-media luminaries from McLuhan onward would like you to believe. Big media will not take care of you. Big media will not think for you. Big media will give you their version of events, their morality, their biases. The people (however lazy) need to use their own moral compass to guide themselves through the muck. The big media outlets (TW/AOL especially) have no reponsibility to take care of you and to do your thinking for you. You have to do that yourself.

    Ha! As if the crap mass-media consumer news outlets are going to get any worse as a result of this merger? Could they be any more intellectually bankrupt as a result of the TW/AOL merger than they already are?

    Be lazy - pay the price.

  • There was one corporation for each sector of the economy.

    One corporation had media (Time Warner-AOL), one had energy (Chevron-Texaco), one had computers (Microsoft),etc., etc. And that is just from watching CNN this week.

    The fact that MGM is remaking this movie for next Summer's release may just be a cry of help from Hollywood (sorry can't stop snickering).

    Anyway check it out ROLLERBALL []

  • Let's all keep our fingers crossed, eh? ;-)

  • Local Cable, and Telephone service over the 'last mile' constitute an area of the economy which lends itself to a technical monopoly (one of several types of natural monopolies). In such cases, even the staunchest capitalist would at least consider that a government run monopoly might be the best solution. The best possible example of this is the local road system. Does anyone seriously propose that competing companies build alternative roads to your house and that they compete freely?!
  • Hopefully in such a system, we wouldn't have pointlessly diverse content delivery systems (coax, twisted pair, circuit switched, packet switched, etc.), but instead be blessed with an all-fiber network that runs right into the point of delivery.

    When has choice ever been pointless?

    Monopoly cable grants are the root of the problem. I get rapped by my ATT because they are the only people my local government has alowed to run cable. I'm not convinced that this rape was ever needed, and I'll never be convinced that it should last forever. I'll feel far more empowered if the public right of way is opened up rather than clamped down by my city hall.

    Cable is not like electricity, where centrilization and standards had demonstrable social savings and monopolies made sense. Nor is it like the phone network where you need an individual line to each house. The more information networks you have the better off you are. Open it up and let the greedheads fight for clients.

    Regulation should be along the lines of free access. No, not spam. People should be alowed to serve in a pull based way, it's the free speech of the future. Access should also be provided to the poor, as this will be the 911 of the future as well, but that is another matter to be considered if anyone can prove that it would be cheaper to abandon the current voice phone network than to expand and maintain it.

  • Wireless has real prommise, but would it be needed if the right of ways were realy opened up? Wireless has to connect at some point.

    Regulation is what monopoly grants are all about. The idea is to get a service without getting raped. The most sucessful and natural of these was electricity production, where the utilities were prommised 13% proffit and no more. So cable companies got their monopoly, where are the regulations? Do you really want internet regulations?

    I'd rather see the cable monoply frachises dissapear in a cloud of reason. Just about everybody has freaking cable, and the cost of installing has got to have gone down by now. I have visions of big fat cable plants and excess capacity when each build up ends. It's too bad the monoply franchises were ever granted instead of waiting for cable to grow on it's own. The cable right of way runs underneath powerlines in my back yard. There's plenty of room for other wires up there.

  • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @08:51AM (#704793) Homepage Journal
    The linked article is rather scanty, here's another article that explains exactly what is holding up FTC approval and how it can be resolved.

    AT& ;T says Time Warner negotiated deal not likely []

    Second Law of Blissful Ignorance
  • Why doesn't someone *gasp* compete and build another one?

    You *gasp* can't compete and build another cable network. Most cities that I know of have franchise agreements with a particular carrier. This agreement states that the only one allowed to provide service within that city is that specific carrier. If competetion in the local cable market could be done, it would have been done already.

  • by waldeaux ( 109942 ) <donahue AT skepsis DOT com> on Sunday October 15, 2000 @08:39AM (#704795)
    Of course local cable has intense competition!

    After all, if you don't like your cable company, you can move!

    (For the sarcasm/humor impaired, don't take the above text seriously.)

  • I've often wondered exactly what AOL and Time Warner hope to gain from merging. Their early press releases on the issue stated that they wanted to do it so Time Warner could use AOL's 'net infrastructure to distribute media via the Internet... but now it raises interesting questions over cable Internet access. Doesn't Time Warner own a few cable companies here and there? I live in an area where cable Internet access is unavailable because the local cable monopoly, AT&T Cable, hasn't decided to roll out Internet service yet. Could Time Warner cable (whatever their cable divixion is) users be forced to get cable service only through America Online?

    Blue Neon - a wonderfully insane online comic []
  • Are you this guy?

    This sort of thing (both the Onion article and your reference to it) are the best proof I've seen that television seriously undermines public discourse. Someone dares to question the importance that is placed on passive diversions like television and movies, and you start mocking him in a manner that is only a step or two above namecalling. I mean, why didn't you just accuse him of being a "nerd" or a "brain" or somesuch?

    In essence, you're doing volunteer work for various large media corporations.

  • Netscape-AOL-Lycos-TimeWarner ??????? Where do you get Lycos from? Lycos is in no way involved inthe whole AOL-Time Warner merger/buy. In fact Lycos is merging with Terra networks, the largest ISP in Spain (majority owned by Telefonica S.A.).
  • Don't they have freedom of speech too?
    Lord Omlette
    ICQ# 77863057
  • at least satellite is becomeing a viable alternative. Both for internet and TV.
  • They built the cable lines, why should they have to share them?

    Al Gore and his DARPA friends built the Internet backbone (no really); why should they have to share it?

  • Use DLS[sic] instead of cable modem

    With DSL you have to live within about 3.5 km of the telco's switch. And most towns don't have their switches placed in such a way to cover the whole town.

  • Its funny to read the andover page that says "Leading the linux revolution" and yet netcraft says they run solaris. Practice what you preach.
  • Don't be such a nebbish. TW/AOL has the potential to influence and warp the entire economy, and society, culture, and the future of the internet along with it. That's the issue, and the reason for applying antitrust laws. What you're talking about is less significant than the merging of three competing bagel shops in El Paso, Texas.
  • It's a nice thought, but if you've ever tried to get anything done with a homeowners' asscociation, school district, or other local snakepit, you'd know it wouldn't work.
  • What's being overlooked here is that the executives of these companies have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to maximize share value and profit. They personally may like to see open access, but as executives they are pretty much required not to pass up an opportunity to control, in this case, practically the whole damned internet.
  • No, its "Army of Lamers" ;)
  • The foot dragging by AOL on IM, where there is a huge monopoly also has raised concerns.

    Again, you confuse huge market cap with monopoly. AIM and ICQ control most of the IM market, yes... but does that mean that consumers must use those products? Is there no competition? Of course there's competition. The competition sucks, so consumers choose AIM/ICQ. If you think this is a monopoly, you're badly mistaken. This is capitalism at it's best.

    Also... I'm having a hard time understanding why TW should open up their cable systems. Yeah yeah, the FTC (why the hell do they exist (read: we pay taxes) anyway?) wants them to in order to get the merger through, but why? I would think that this is a huge opportunity for an entrepreneurial company to step in and build a bigger and better network. This isn't happening. There are currently other networks around, I'm sure. Why don't they be forced to open up their lines too? Why shouldn't everything be open? ISPs shouldn't have to *gasp* build their own network! Give me a break. Time Warner simply has a better and bigger network, and since they don't want to spend their money to support other ISPs, this causes them to be a monopoly? Am I missing something?

  • by session ( 139321 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @11:03AM (#704813)
    Uh... You're missing the point. Let's say you have two grocery stores in your town, one being twice as large (with 50% as many products) as the other one. The larger grocery store raise prices in order to cover their larger cost of operation. Does this make them a monopoly? No. Why? Because people will shop at the smaller store. The smaller store now benefits, and so do consumers.

    AOL has more content, more POPs than any other ISP in the country (maybe the world), and provides their own content in addition to the Internet. Explain to me why this doesn't justify higher prices? It's a better (in 23,000,000 subscribers' minds) product. If you don't like it, don't buy it. They're not holding a gun to your head.

  • BTW, is anybody else incensed that AOL started using CD's a couple years back? I can't format the disks and use them any more, so end up getting a free coaster about every week or so. They're starting to pile up!

    I have an idea... Insteading creating further waste by throwing them away, lets collect as many of those frickin' CDs as we can. Stuff them into 5 gallon garbage bags, and load as many U-Hauls as possible. Then drive down to Dulles, VA and unload them onto the steps of AOL headquarters. Maybe they'd get the message.
  • Kind of late, but I'll reply anyway. First of all, I doubt anyone in the government is reacting with malice towards Time-Warner; they're simply saying that they might not allow the merger to go through. Time-Warner won't be punished or fined, they'll simply have to remain separate from AOL.

    As for who gave them the authority, you answered the question yourself; the voters did. And I don't quite follow the next two sentences; personally I'm for it. I don't like the idea of large corporations taking unfair advantage of their size and market share to squash everyone else. Better big government than big business, because we can at least vote for the government.
  • deals with the local ISPs for cable access. In my hometown the local ISP, Northnet has written letters of protest to the FCC and FTC about the deal offered them. AOL wants $30 per ISP customer, plus 25% of the ISP's advertising revenue. Seems a deal like that would put local ISPs out of business.

    Seems awful stupid to me to offer such an outrageous deal to ISPs in light of the proposed merger. Who do they think they are, Micro$oft?

    They should have offered leased lines at reasonable prices, not a per customer charge, and perhaps 1% to 2% of generated ad revenue. AOL/TimeWarner had better watch their step, or they may become the next target of the DOJ!

  • I'd feel a lot better about this merger if local cable (like Time-Warner has such a big hand in) itself faced tougher competition than it does right now.

    I would feel a lot better about this merger if Time-Warner wasn't one of the top 5 contributors to the Gore\Liebierman campaign (iirc).

  • by AntiNorm ( 155641 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @09:09AM (#704823)
    The US is a free enough country that anyone can start their own AOL, Microsoft, Time/Warner or whatever.

    True, but there's the (significant) chance that you either won't have enough of a customer base as compared to the Big Corporations to stay in business, or that you will just be bought out by one of said Corporations. That is one of the big reason why large corporate monopolies are bad -- they have a tendency to squash potential competition.

    If you let the Government push around the companies you don't like, soon they'll start pushing around the companies you do like.

    Or, as in more and more recent cases, the company will push the government around. For example, the MPAA et al buying the DMCA.

  • ship em' to me! there is a contest for creative aol cd usage..and i have a good idea...I only need about 4 or 5 thousand more.

  • by plastickiwi ( 170800 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @08:16AM (#704829)

    What's boning them now is Case's flip-flop on open access. Before negotiations for the merger began he was a vocal advocate for legislation forcing network owners to open their networks to competing ISP without their own lines.

    Now he's going to be a high muckety-muck with billions in stock and stock options at one of the world's largest corporations, and *poof*! Suddenly, those pro-competitive open networks he used to champion are tantamount to communism. Regulators tend to notice things like this.

    Things that make you go "Hmmmmm."

  • by Fervent ( 178271 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @08:16AM (#704831)
    I'd feel a lot better about this merger if local cable (like Time-Warner has such a big hand in) itself faced tougher competition than it does right now.

    The idea that a single company would own every entertainment medium on the planet - movies, music, radio, web - doesn't scare you enough?

  • by Enigma2175 ( 179646 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @10:17AM (#704835) Homepage Journal
    Hmmm, something like this happened recently when AT&T bought TCI and Media One. The feds hammered them about internet access and opening their system for competition. AT&T resisted, but finally gave in and said "Sure, we'll open our lines, we'll allow competition". So where is it? I see absolutely no competition in the cable market in my region. All I see is my cable TV prices rising, my cable internet getting an upstream cap, and AT&T promoting the hell out of the @Home service-oversubscribing the nodes.

    I see the same thing happening with the Time Warner-AOL deal. Eventually they will relent and agree to open their networks, but when it comes time for them to actually lease a line to a competing ISP, I wager they will balk. They will argue there are technical problems, or claim the other ISP is being unreasonable, or just sell the line for an outrageous price that would make it impossible to make a profit. Whatever the case, don't count on open access very soon, it just isn't in AOL or Time Warner's best interest.



  • The problem is, in my eyes, if this merger is completed, this huge corporation controls the information flow to millions of people. So, you've got 30 million americans who are reading Time Magazine, watch CNN, surf the web starting at AOL, and thinking they are informed, but in reality, they never got anything outside of AOL/Time-Warner.

    Now, it may not be a problem as long as journalists have some integrity and money doesn't mean everything, but then...

  • This doesn't mean my cable modem acess will be routed through AOL does it? That would REALLY suck... I know they'd find a way to create busy signals =]
  • The Federales are getting antsy about the possibility that the USA will be merged next into the Times-Warner-AOL colossus, and then they'll all be demoted to customer support with pimply-faced "1337 #4}{0r5" as their bosses.

  • Direct quote from Yahoo!News:

    "The world's largest Internet services provider's efforts to buy the cable and publishing giant Time Warner won European approval on Wednesday only after AOL offered to sever all structural links with German media group Bertelsmann AG (BTGGga.F). That concession eliminated the risk of dominance in the emerging market for online delivery of music over the Internet and software-based music players."

    Being Dutch this leaves me slightly puzzled, do I have to believe now that the EU, this most bureaucratic, most inefficient, most undemocratic, and sometimes even corrupt supra-govermental institution did something right for a change?

    This seems to be a matter where the EU was aware of the European situation (AOL having ties with Bertelsmann), aware of possible monopolies (AOL+TW+BM against the rest), and they were able to get a result.

    The EU categorically forbidding the AOL/TW merger seems to be a bit rich.

    BTW: ime -warner/ []

    /tmp/.sig: Please stop calling the Euro a Eurodollar. For Europeans, it feels degrading.

  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Sunday October 15, 2000 @09:39AM (#704851) Homepage Journal
    I don't understand why AT&T is allowed to gobble up every cable company in sight even when it has a clear policy and history of refusing to listen to open access demands, and has an even longer history of acting as a monopolist, yet a large but nonetheless player in the ISP market can't merge with another cable company, despite being the major force pressing for competitive measures like open access, because somehow it's going to be a big monopolist if it does (and T wouldn't be?)

    Screw the FCC and FTC. Neither of these mergers should be happening, but if one is, both should. To allow AT&T to become the next Internet monopolist unimpeded is an astonishing government policy.

    It's a little like Microsoft buying IBM and nobody saying anything, but when Apple subsequently buys Motorola the powers that be going ape-shit.

  • Wired from a couple months ago had an article on the AOL/Time-Warner merger (get it here []). It was rather long, but it was very informative, and definitely worth the read if you're not up-to-snuff on the issue. It looks as if these two companies have their leadership infrastructure well planned out. I doubt that there's any chance the merger will just _not happen_. Especially not over something trivial like a bit of a mixup concerning broadband (if such a problem even exists). If anything, the merger is a sure thing; unless of course, the government decides to get involved...or a meteor destroys the north american continent or something. Well, no doubt, the government _will_ get involved (why stop with just Microsoft?); but I'm sure AOL/Time-Warner will get their problems straightened out. It's a natural reaction to fear such an intimidating company, and people will be trying to poke holes in it whenever possible. One could write a book on it. However, the Wired article [] should suffice. -David "Ryouga" H. Cut the kids in half...

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.