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America Online

FCC Approves AOL-Time Warner Merger 171

Lots of people submitted this - we held off until we could find the FCC's information page. CNN and nearly every other news outlet on the planet have stories, but for the real info, you'll need to go straight to the FCC and read their documents. While you're pondering the meaning of this, consider: it used to be the policy of the U.S. government to keep content producers and carriers separate.
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FCC Approves AOL-Time Warner Merger

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  • Ironically, the thing that had the FCC the most worried was AOL acquiring the head ends of half the country's cable modems, when cable-based broadband figures to be a bit player in that industry (vs. 3G wireless and various DSLs) within the next few years.

    People have been saying that telcos would beat cable for over 5 years now. It still hasn't happened. Heck, it hasn't even started. Telcos may never get their act together, and if they do it will not be anytime soon.

    3G wireless doesn't exist in the US yet. DSL could be a contender, but it's still too confusing and fragmented for Joe Public (aka, AOL Arnie) to figure out. What does DSL mean to AOL Arnie? Where does it come from? It's just another TLA that he doesn't care about.

    Now a Cable Modem he understands (or so he thinks). It's a modem that uses your cable TV line. Of course, it's not really a modem at all because it is a digital connection, but Arnie doesn't care because in his mind it "does what a modem does" and so it's familiar territory. Nobody has to install any special lines to his house. He doesn't have to do the math to find out if he lives close enough to the telco's switch. It's simple. Besides, when someone tries to tell him what DSL is they always start off with "It's like a cable modem, but..." so cable modems must be better.

    It's going to be a long time before people start ditching cable modems in droves for DSL or 3G wireless. The costs have to come down, the service has to become more reliable, and the whole process needs to become more dummy friendly.
  • "We are very pleased with the FCC's favorable vote today on our merger," a Time Warner spokesman said. "This final regulatory approval represents a tremendous win for consumers and we are now in the process of completing the merger."

    No kidding, why wouldn't they be pleased. I have only one question though. Why did the FCC vote in favour of this merger? I don't understand what they had to gain from it, I mean the general public has more to win with Time Warner reporting non-bias news.

  • If it is disturbing, then it should be disturbing on it's own merits and not in conjunction with what little AOL brings to the table.

    What really disturbs me most is that the same company that owns the most popular ISP in the world also owns Progressive Farmer magazine.
  • "we held off until we could find the FCC's information page." Hmmm, FCC.gov. Click the top link "FCC Gives Conditoned Approval to AOL - Time Warner Merger. 1/11/01" Hope they didn't have to hold off *too* long. :>
  • READ IT AGAIN, from YOUR POST, trimmed to focus on the details:

    Given AOL Time Warner's likely domination of the potentially competitive business of new, IM-based services, especially advanced, IM-based high-speed services ("AIHS") applications, the FCC ruled that AOL Time Warner may not offer any AIHS steaming video applications that uses a Names and Presence Directory ("NPD") over the Internet via AOL Time Warner broadband facilities until the company demonstrates that it has satisfied one of three pro-competitive options outlined by the FCC

    As it has been reported EVERYWHERE now, they do not have to be IM compatible UNLESS they use AIHS, or in other words, next-generation services. ALL of those conditions come into play when and ONLY IF they use AIHS.

    Period.

    As I said, read it again and again.
  • So who'd you vote for peasant?
  • Ok, help me to understand this phenomena. We geeks want everything on the web. We want to see the web used for TV, News, Gaming, etc., at least I do. Slashdot is a mecca of information which is what the internet was designed for. TV and movies on demand is what we crave, right? When something happens to actually smack this horse in the ass and get it moving, most of you complain..."...oh, kiddies say they want teevee on the wwweb.". I despise AOL, but hey, MANY people love it. I have Warner cable. You see, sometimes in business companies merge and innovate. Sometimes BIG companies merge. Sometimes small companies merge. Lots of you /.'ers attack every new idea or business phenomena. Why is that? Are you jealous because you aren't profiting from these ventures? I don't see what the big deal is...you don't use AOL so why worry about it?
  • by iamsure ( 66666 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @04:49AM (#511920) Homepage
    I hate to disagree, but..

    I went and interviewed for a position with the software development group for AOL back in september, at which time they were already planning on the merger..

    Anyways, while I was interviewing, they paid particular attention to my linux knowledge, and specifically said that 'certain products were being developed for that platform'.

    She non-specifically made it clear that AOL intends to be *EVERYWHERE*, and that linux makes a nice way to do that.

    Dont be so sure it wont happen. Remember, AOL generally hasnt switched to netscape code for their browser to keep their logo on windows machines, which is becoming less important.

    They can still get away with making NON-windows versions that use the netscape code, ya know?

    They also can do the same for compuserve, and all the companies that they license their technology to (prodigy).

  • This is what happens when you get a society addicted to the term "you've got mail" look for a new slogan like "you've got cable" I think that if AOL wants to spend 121 billion on something they should give it back to the customers that made them as they are. Another prime example of what makes the USA so great.....monopoly anyone....
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
    You got your content company in my internet provider!

    No... you got your internet provider in my content company!

    I wonder if Microsoft will acquire them or vice versa...

  • Shouldn't that be "so who'd vote for you peasant?" :)
  • I don't know if it was on purpose or not, or just if all that complicated equipment was a bit much for your mental capacity of a monkey armed forces

    Um, why would any country want to waste perfectly intelligent people in their armed forces?

    Well actually, countries do. Which is why I left mine and came to America - those bastards back home wanted to draft me. Fat chance. But here in the U.S., they've figured out they're better off putting the folks with brains in say, Silicon Valley than Fort Mead.

    So my advice is, stay out of the way of those American forces. They're nice, patriotic boys one and all, but they're not selected for their smarts.

  • It's not, yet. But some day it may be, if only for brand name recognition value. And IIRC, something like 80+% of people use AOL instant messenger programs (through either AOL own IM or ICQ).
  • "I just wonder which company the government will fall under..." The Controling Company.

    Or probably "The Company" for short.

    Of course, if you went the Truth in Advertising route, it would be called "Big Brother."

    It would stand to reason that the management training manual would likely consist of a nightmarish compilation of 1984, Catch-22, Brave New World, Ferenheit 451, and a host of other works with which I am not familiar.

    Though I'm not familiar with the book, I understand Dante's Inferno could also fit in as well.

    --

  • Not really. But it might be nice to see it go to a better home in that case.
  • The ruling can be found at this link: http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Cable/Public_Notices/20 01/fcc01011_fact.txt

    IM Condition
    The FCC imposed the IM condition to avert market harm now so that it would not be required to regulate in the future.
    ? Given AOL Time Warner's likely domination of the potentially competitive business of new, IM-based services, especially advanced, IM-based high-speed services ("AIHS") applications, the FCC ruled that AOL Time Warner may not offer any AIHS steaming video applications that uses a Names and Presence Directory ("NPD") over the Internet via AOL Time Warner broadband facilities until the company demonstrates that it has satisfied one of three pro-competitive options outlined by the FCC.
    ? AOL Time Warner must file a progress report with the FCC, 180 days from the release date of the order and every 180 days thereafter, describing in technical depth the actions it has taken to achieve interoperability of its IM offerings and other offerings. These reports will be placed on public notice for comment.
    ? The IM condition will sunset five years after the release of the Order.

    "This may be the fault of the interpreter, in which case HE is the hippopotamus."
  • "Which means that for at least 5 years, AOL/TW will be under a government microscope ..."

    Corporations have a lifespan and set goals far longer than 5 years in the future. This government scrutiny, if it happens at all, won't happen for very long. AOL/Time Warner can wait. They are in it for the long haul. Guaranteed that within the next 10 years at the latest, they will have violated every single agreement they made with the government. They only played nice to get over the pesky matter of public opinion. Now that they got what they wanted, it's a long, slow, inexorable slide down the slippery slope of lack-of-choice.
    ________________

  • Does it really surprise anyone that this went through? A deal like this is potentially way too profitable for any government agency to stand in the way (and by that I mean the profits that are poured directly into that agency's member's pockets). Not to mention the concept that with fewer media "outlets" it will be a lot easier to coordinate when there is a situation where the government wants to make sure that there is no media leakage (and if there would be just say, nudge, nudge, remember when we let you do this).

    But the real story here is that the government lately is promoting bigger and bigger business entities. The reasoning probably goes along the lines of bigger business=bigger government. The bigger the businesses get, the more justified the government can feel when they say they need to create new laws and make themselves bigger. Bigger government means more power. God it's great to be an American! Next thing you know I'll be blocked from buying a guitar because I might "disrupt the flow of information" from the big media conglomerates.

  • So easy to brainwash you... No wonder it's #1!*

    *You may experience busy signals or blocked sites, especially during peak times or if you attempt to access content we don't like.

  • I think this is going to be a lot more annoying over anything else. We are going to start seeing Batman checking his AOL account just like we see the JAG team getting MSN messenger messages for top secret data. In the matrix 2 we will see, instead of them having to get to a phone, them having to get to a computer with AOL IM...
  • I heard about this on the news this morning and I couldn't believe how stupid the requirements (that I heard) were:

    1) AOL has to make Instant Messaging work with other versions.

    Hey, can you also make sure they keep putting orange lightning rods on the free CD cases? It's about as meaningful as Instant Messaging.

    2) TimeWarner's content has to be available to other ISPs.

    Leaving aside the question of whether TimeWarner actually produces any "content" worthy of the name, why WOULDN'T they make it widely available. It's widely available now, restricting it to just AOL users just reduces the market share.

    I guess my whole argument boils down to this: As people get more technically savvy, AOL's membership is going to decrease, making this all meaningless.
    --
    MailOne [openone.com]
  • If anything is bad about this merger is that it now gives MS a good dose of ammunitions to defend its position that it has competition and thus it can now argue that breaking MS up is a sure prescription to kill it off.

  • AOL - Internet for Idiots
    Time Warner - Service Sucks

    Can the combination be that much better?

  • I understand that part of the deal is they have to open AIM.

    Finally, we'll get some standardization going on and I'll be able to talk to people regardless of client.

    Of course, everything else about this deal seems to suck...
  • It's a move back to pre-renaissance feudal days, but on a global scale. We can only hope that there'll be a similar cultural revolution to the renaissance in the near future.

    What scares me is that the same thing happened as recently as the late 1800s - early 1900s. Have we not learned anything from history? When I look at the corporate power during the 20s, with the monopolies, company towns, and "robber barons", I can easily envision our current corporations doing the same thing. Perhaps in a little different manner, though: the government would probably be actively involved rather than taking the hands-off attitude of the 20s.

    The Great Depression was the main event that broke the feudal pattern of the era. The unchecked power of the corporations eventually resulted in a crisis that caused general harm to society. Unfortunately, unless the majority of the populace suffers as a result of the feudalism, it's rare to see the public outcry that's needed to bring about change. As long as most people are doing okay, and have opportunities for advancement, they stick with the status quo. It's only when the bottom falls out completely that there's a strong motivation for change.

    I don't know what scares me more about our current situation: that we may have to face something as devastating as the Great Depression before we'll see significant structural change, or that the policies and programs that are currently in place might be just enough to stave off such devastation and preserve the feudal status quo.

    The demise of the rampant scarcity economy via nuclear fusion and nanotechnology or some other technological brreakthrough would jump start such a revolution nicely.

    Hmmm...that might be true, but only if the general public truly understands the change. But like you said, we're seeing true scarcity replaced by artificial scarcity. As long as those who value a scarcity-based economy are able to generate this artificial scarcity and convince the public that it's just as real as the physical scarcity, then it won't matter. An artificial scarcity that's generally accepted will work just as well as a true scarcity.

    Artificial scarcity is already a reality. And there are so many ways to create it:

    • IP laws cause scarcity of ideas, like you've already mentioned
    • increasingly stringent noncompete clauses cause scarcity of employable people
    • gratuitous interface changes (e.g., Windows API, car diagnostic interfaces) cause scarcity of interoperable alternatives
    • exclusive distribution contracts (e.g., Ticketmaster, Olympics) cause scarcity of availability
    • ...

    And the scary thing is that all you have to do to create an artificial scarcity on a resources is to tie it economically, contractually or technologically to something that is already scarce. It doesn't really matter whether the existing scarcity is real or artificial, either. The tying will propagate the scarcity equally well.

    Okay, call me a cynic, but I can't see this cycle of artificial scarcity being easily broken by the development of any technology, no matter how wonderful it may be.

  • Today that is true, but the end result of this merger, if AOL+TM play their cards right, will be that no one will recognize "Windows" (maybe only during boat time) -- instead everyone will now see "IM" as there interface to the world and to applications. I.e.: the brand name "Windows" that comes from MS now has the potential of being replaced by "IM" that comes from AOL+TM.

    This is no different than the thread that MS saw with Netscape browser+Java over 5 years ago which is why MS killed Netscape.

    Beside, do you *really* need a MS OS to run "IM"? A JVM under "IM" on a Linux, PalmOS, BeOS, etc. box can do the job just fine.

    In few more years the an OS will fade away into the dark -- it is the "interface" and the "applications" that will matter -- and most consumers go after well known brand names, not technology names.

  • If you want a list [cjr.org] of holdings, Columbia Journalism Review [cjr.org] has them for both AOL [cjr.org] and Time Warner [cjr.org]. Wow. While AOL's list isn't so long, Time Warner's is very disturbing.
  • At some point in the near future, will AOL start including Netscape 6.x with their installation CD? When likely? It seems the only company big enough to go against MS and reverse the trend of IE getting such a huge browser share is AOL (by distributing Netscape) Anyone agree or disagree? As an occasional HTML'er, I too have to go through the frustration of checking my pages in NS4.7, then IE5, and now NS6.0. Hopefully the rise of an AOL-pushed Netscape browser will reduce the recent trend for pages to use IE-centric tricks (because of IE's current large market share) Finally, most of us complained about the sluggishness of the XUL-skinned Mozilla/Netscape (instead of using native GUI widgets), but as CPU's get faster, and "web appliances" which don't rely on a Win/Mac/Gnome/KDE GUI become more available, perhaps this "non-native widget set" idea for Netscape was a good idea after all?
  • by scotteparte ( 240046 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @06:43AM (#511941)
    Remember your history? The FTC was formed to enforce and prosecute antitrust charges when the Sherman Antitrust Act was first passed. This is back when the word "Monopoly" was being coined, and Standard Oil was the only oil company around. Since then, it has had an inconsistent record on litigation.

    They went after the first big boys on the block - the Carnegies, Rockefellers, etc., but they never went after Hearst even though he owned a newspaper in every city. He also owned all the production means, start to finish, to build a newspaper, and consistently used his papers to influence public opinion and put pressure on political figures. Hearst almost kept us out of WWII by defending and supporting the Nazis in his papers.

    The FTC went after AT&T, but hasn't done anything as the Baby Bells have come back together to form (ugh!) Verizon. They haven't blinked when banks take over cities, and airlines consolidate. And they haven't offered more than trifling criticism on mass media deals. Why not?

    If the merger were to be blocked, how do you think the FTC and FCC would look on CNN? Most people aren't smart enough to see the connection, and slowly but surely, the media would drop them down a notch. Who knows, CNN might be able to generate enough support to overturn Sherman Antitrust completely! And then where would we be? I mean, the media killed the Independent Counsel Act after the Clinton impeachment. I've seen five CNN correspondents tag-team a gov't PR official until he almost cracked ("Are there any questions from a non-CNN reporter?" was his exact quote). The power of the media in this country has reached the point of ridicule.

    I think we should ask ourselves a question. If the founding fathers had known the speed and widespread audience that media could generate given the technology, would they have so vigorously defended the rights of the media? Or would there have been a responsiblity issue? I think that with technological advancement comes a responsibility not to abuse it, and the mass media has overstepped its bounds. I'm the last person in the world who wants to revisit the First Amendment (I think it's the most important part of our body of law), but there must be some mechanism to stop the glaring abuses going on. Any ideas?

  • It also should be pointed out that Time Warner already had content and bandwidth. -Mark
  • Another huge corporation that wants to control our lives and determine what we do and when we do it..

    Or am i just a bit pessimistic? :)
  • I'm sorry, I forgot to hit the "plain old text" selection.. (how do I go back to change it?) what I meant to say was:

    At some point in the near future, will AOL start including Netscape 6.x with their installation CD? When likely?

    It seems the only company big enough to go against MS and reverse the trend of IE getting such a huge browser share is AOL (by distributing Netscape) Anyone agree or disagree?

    As an occasional HTML'er, I too have to go through the frustration of checking my pages in NS4.7, then IE5, and now NS6.0. Hopefully the rise of an AOL-pushed Netscape browser will reduce the recent trend for pages to use IE-centric tricks (because of IE's current large market share)

    Finally, most of us complained about the sluggishness of the XUL-skinned Mozilla/Netscape (instead of using native GUI widgets), but as CPU's get faster, and "web appliances" which don't rely on a Win/Mac/Gnome/KDE GUI become more available, perhaps this "non-native widget set" idea for Netscape was a good idea after all?

  • OK, This following is a direct copy and paste from the fact sheet. the only change i made was making one point bold. Acording to this they must make steps twords compatablility within 180 days. Compatibilitly has nothing to do with the "advanced technology AIM"
    IM Condition The FCC imposed the IM condition to avert market harm now so that it would not be required to regulate in the future. ? Given AOL Time Warner's likely domination of the potentially competitive business of new, IM-based services, especially advanced, IM-based high-speed services ("AIHS") applications, the FCC ruled that AOL Time Warner may not offer any AIHS steaming video applications that uses a Names and Presence Directory ("NPD") over the Internet via AOL Time Warner broadband facilities until the company demonstrates that it has satisfied one of three pro-competitive options outlined by the FCC.
    ? AOL Time Warner must file a progress report with the FCC, 180 days from the release date of the order and every 180 days thereafter, describing in technical depth the actions it has taken to achieve interoperability of its IM offerings and other offerings. These reports will be placed on public notice for comment. ? The IM condition will sunset five years after the release of the Order.
  • ...America OnTime. :-)


    See you in hell,
    Bill Fuckin' Gates®.
  • yeah, and what if you could only go to websites owned by VA? neither situation is coming true.

    ----------

  • "And when the majority..."

    oh. you mean it hasnt already fallen into the first category???
  • why wouldn't it? if it was legal, aoltw would definately want to restrict access, both to their content(aol only) and others content(not from aol). this would clearly be in their best interests.
  • It's funny how the same story is reported differently. MSNBC's Version (AOL-Time Warner may struggle). [msnbc.com] And CNN's Version (AOL Time Warner deal gets FCC approval). [cnn.com]

    It's nice to know we can count on honest reporting- from *one* of our news providers. Eenie meenie miney moe...

  • BTW, it'll be interesting to see the finicial report of electric utilities in California. I imagine that despite the lack of power generating facilities, their "high fuel cost" for producing power, and blackouts (rolling and otherwise), they will still manage to pull in a pretty decent profit. Oh yes, they'll eventually increase their power generation capabilities. However, the foundation will be poured upon our bruised and broken back, as well as the reminants of our bank accounts.

    Last time I checked, the two major electric utilities were about 4 billion dollars in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy. So much for "profit".

    These companies got screwed by the government who allowed their costs to rise without giving them the ability to increase revenue. But I guess that is better than allowing them to pass the expense on to the customer, who has to eat the bill because he/she can't pass it along to anyone else. But it looks like the customer will pay in the end, either by not having power or higher tax rates as the government bails out the utilities to keep the lights on.


  • by alanjstr ( 131045 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @03:51AM (#511952) Homepage
    To quote from the PCWorld article [pcworld.com]:

    "AOL will be allowed to continue blocking users of competing instant-messaging services from communicating with users of its market-leading instant-messaging services known as AIM and ICQ.

    "Only if AOL extends its instant-messaging services to include multimedia features like videoconferencing would the company be required to allow communications between its users and users of competing services."

    And since most people have no use for video-conferencing, this doesn't seem like a big deal to me.

  • by gaijin99 ( 143693 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @03:51AM (#511953) Journal
    The thing that so many of us don't remember is that capitalism is based on the idea of companies *competing*, not cooperating. The modern "merge and be friendly" attitude among the biggest players is leading us to higher prices and worse service.

    While some people point out the provisions within the merger allowance requiring access for "non-premium" service (who decides what is "premium" and what is not?) the simple fact is that we now have content and provider being the same entity, a vertical monopoly. This is bad from any standpoint. Those who say "well, it isn't that bad, they'll be watched closely for five years" are ignoring the fact that this merger will still exist after five years have passed. Some corporations and managers know the value of patience; they can wait five years before they get nasty.

    One of the functions of government in a capitalistic society must be to preserve competition, a function that our government cannot fulfill if it is owned by the big corporations. The AOL/TW merger is just a symptom of the larger problem of campaign financing. We must acknowledge that a "campaign contribution" is nothing more or less than a bribe. Our "elected representitives" appoint the FTC and the FCC, is it any surprise that they have appointed people who have weakened our watchdog orginizations when they owe their very elections to the corporations the FTC is supposed to be watching? The system of legalized bribery in politics must end or we will be seeing more and more mergers of this sort.

  • Like the FCC has opposed any merger. I'll bet the fund managers for the FCC secretly snap up stock every time one of these mergers gets proposed, and just before each merger is approved.

    No matter how you spell it, it's still "M-O-N-O-P-O-L-Y".
  • I was channel-surfing tonight and I heard the quote that is now my slashdot signature. See below. This is worrisome.
    ----
    "Here to discuss how the AOL merger will affect consumers is the CEO of AOL."
  • Whine, whine, whine. Everyone seems to have forgotten why AOL was so touchy about that subject.

    AOL's system was and is easily reverse-engineered. There's nothing in AIM (at least, there wasn't when this nonsense started) that locks out users of other messenging systems- the protocol isn't exactly ultra-secret. The issue is with use of Buddy Lists. These are provided by *central AOL servers*. To get a competing messenging app to use buddy lists, it has to use AOL's servers.

    Take a moment to think about how fucking stupid this is. Microsoft and Yahoo! are demanding that AOL either a) eliminate it's own buddy list servers in favor of a unified system, presumably jointly controlled (?) or b) let everyone else's clients use their servers. This isn't like 'finger joeuser@dynamite.acme.com', it's more like using a bot to steal someone else's web content. Wholly aside from whether this is illegal, it sure sucks to be on the receiving end. I don't like AOL one bit, but I'm totally with them on this one. I imagine there's a considerable investment on the backend to AIM.

    It'd be nice (for people who like that sort of thing) if AIM etc. were ported to every OS. But there's no reason to expect them to allow unfettered access to their resources for commercial purposes.

  • Note that they write about 'consumers'... not citizens, not people, they see us as little bags of money for them to periodically drain -- .NET and such are proposals to help it occur in a more continuous fashion.

    Damn it, can't at least *one* journalist resign in disgust over the control exerted by the myriad interests of the corporate hydra? ("No, you can't run this story about AOL/TW beating up third world baby seals...")

    Grendel Drago
  • ABC went under such vertical integration with Disney years ago. Now they they don't produce anything worth watching.
  • One year ago, The Pigdog Journal [pigdog.org] summed up this whole thing best with Mr. Bad's article, Two Giant Mounds of Crap Merge; Can Produce More Crap [pigdog.org]:
    "Yippity doo dah fuck! AOL and Time Warner, two of the world's largest producers of shoddy and biased information, today announced that they would merge together into one giganto-hugic mound of bullshit-producing crap. Look on, ye mighty, and despair!"
    Today, Pao Tzu wrote the obligatory followup article, FCC allows AOL Time Warner buy itself into existence [pigdog.org]:
    "...This will mean more of the same time-honored traditions of AOL such as overselling bandwidth now in the form of cable modem networks instead of telephone lines, overcharge the customer for services they don't really need or could get free somewhere else, and further make individual's computers infected with the virus of AIM, AOL 6.0, and Microsoft Windows."
  • umm instant messaging is the reason probably one third of the people online are online. you don't think thats why people get aol?
  • In a related story, CNN reports that AOL is ready to unveil it's latest improvement to IM, the "WAAASSSUUUUPPPP key."
  • AOL for Linux?? Somehow, when I consider the computer skills of the average aol user, and the skills of the average linux user, I find that aol meets very different needs- "content" that you can find elsewhere vs the bandwidth that so many linux users crave. In other words: AOL /usr is the oxymoron of the day.
  • Sigh... doesn't anyone ever bother to actually read the FCC ruling?

    http://www.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Cable/Public_Notices/20 01/fcc01011.txt [fcc.gov]: D. Technical Performance: All contracts between AOL Time Warner and unaffiliated ISPs for access to Time Warner's cable systems shall contain a clause warranting that, to the extent AOL Time Warner provides any Quality of Service mechanisms, caching services, technical support customer services, multicasting capabilities, address management and other technical functions of the cable system that affect customers' experience with their ISP, AOL Time Warner must provide them in a manner that does not discriminate in favor of AOL Time Warner's affiliated ISPs on the basis of affiliation.

  • Hey, We know exactly where our local paper's (Omaha Wierd-Herald) editorial position is.

    Just to the right of Frederick the Great.

  • I know what that says. You know what that says. But our understanding of thjat text is moot just as soon as AOL/TW get challenged. Then it means whatever a gaggle of corporate lawyers can make a jury of techoserfs believe it says.

    I mean really, do you think they wouldn't screen out any potential juror who can set their VCR clock?

    --

  • It's always struck me as difficult that even interoperable im programs require an account on each service. For me, the ideal im would be just like email- you could im someone's email address regardless of whether they had the same isp as you, and from there it would work like im. Is there any kind of a project to do this in the works? If so it might make the issue of dominance a moot point- there would be a simple standard that didn't require accounts on 100 or so different services and yet people could easily communicate across services, aol notwithstanding.
  • From the business perspective you are right. But once you look at the consumer and entertainment arena you will see that this merger makes it virtually impossible for MS to get into the homes.

    Also, just like the browser was a thread to MS's OS market (when Netscape was king) -- today IM is the next killer application.

    If you look at IM as a simple messages between two or more geeks having fun at work, than you are missing the whole picture. If AOL and TW play their cards right, soon, not only can they use IM to exchange messages (and files which they do now) like they do not, but they can also exchange "applets" that execute on remote computers and with it IM becomes the "OS" just like the Netscape browser was going to be come the "OS"

    This is a real thread for MS. Netscape was a small company, but now it is AOL+TM; in addition, now there is a whole new game that MS is not familiar with: the home market and the entertainment market.

    So yes, this is a "real" thread for MS this time around.

  • "Okay, so the monster company created by this merger does seem a little worrying at first, especially given the amount of scare stories that this site has run. But thankfully the FCC has made sure that the new company must still allow other ISPs to access the content provided by Time-Warner, so there's no need to cry about locking people out. "

    Here's the multi-billion dollar qustion for everyone: Do they (they being AOL-Time Warner) have to allow their internet customers to be able to access a competitor's content? I'm still surfing through the FCC text, but don't haven't seen any such detail.

    As we all know to painfully well, the devil is in the details.

    --

  • I'm a Netscape Employee.
    Here's my thoughs about the merger:

    Good news: I'm on the same payroll as Bugs Bunny and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that one hot chick from buffy the vampire slayer.

    Bad news: I'm on the same payroll as the Wayans Brothers. :( I mean really, are they even funny anymore?

    Good news: I'm on the same payroll as the cast of OZ.

    Bad news: I'm on the same payroll as the cast of Dawson's creek (except for the chicks, who'd I'd boink in an instant).

    Good News: I work for the largest Multi-Media empire in the world.

    Bad news: I still get shit about it because Netscape is owned by AOL.

    Oh well.

    My $0.02

  • Do you have any idea what the word 'monopoly' means? Here's a clue: it is not a generic term for 'big corporation'. The only market in which AOL-TW has #1 marketshare is ISP's, and there are certainly many more choices available, last I checked. AOL-TW is not even #1 is any other market, let alone a monopoly!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The name TWAT (Time Warner AOL Turner) has been discussed on alt.aol-sucks [alt.aol-sucks].

    -- Pinocchio Poppins (former a.a-s regular)
  • The guy who won the election, not the guy who's being appointed president.
  • I think it's a bit ironic how you're complaining about biased news while reading Slashdot.

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • A quick search reveals TW/AOL will own:

    AOL
    Compuserv
    ICQ, Inc
    MapQuest
    Netscape
    time magazine
    sports illustrated
    people magazine
    Entertainment Weekly
    HBO
    Life Magazine
    Six Flags Theme Parks * 14
    CNN
    Castle Rock Entertainment
    TNT
    Cartoon Network
    Turner Classic Movies
    Warner Brothers
    Warner Music
    Atlantic Records
    Elektra Records
    Reprise Records

    Does anyone know of others?
  • You load 16 tons .... what do you get?
    Another day older and deeper in debt.
    Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go,
    I owe my soul to the company store.

    --
  • Considering the influence big money and big corporations have over governments, the law and people's personal rights, I'll admit this type of merger worries me a bit. It seems more and more that even the rights of governments are being dissolved as mega corporations march across borders with the purpose of not bettering people's lives, even the lives of people who own and run it, but for the sole purpose of bettering (read: increasing profits of) the corporation, regardless of the human toll in lost jobs, lost rights, and lost identity. If you travel across the country, the continent or most of the world now, it's becoming very homogenized. While sci-fi writers of old viewed the government as the big brother of the future, it seems the corporations are the real potential threat.

    And on a side note, I think this ties in great with the article posted just before it, Death Spiral First Evidence Of Black Hole. [slashdot.org] Heh.
    --

  • by RayChuang ( 10181 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @03:59AM (#511981)
    Folks,

    While you folks are celebrating the supposed breakup of Microsoft (which may now never happen given Judge Jackson's recent public comments and the incoming Bush administration), that case has been rendered moot by the now-certain merger of AOL and Time Warner.

    Think about it: AOL Time Warner is now the world's most powerful mass media entity, something right out of the James Bond movie TOMORROW NEVER DIES. Look at what they will own now:

    1. The #1 ISP in the USA.

    2. The #2 internet broadband provider in the USA.

    3. The #2 cable system provider in the USA.

    4. The most powerful cable/satellite TV content provider in the world with CNN networks, HBO networks, Turner Broadcasting networks (TBS, TNT, and TCM), and TVKO pay-per-view.

    5. Their own TV network (WB Network).

    6. A massive movie and TV production combine (Warner Brothers, New Line and Gramercy).

    7. One of the largest magazine publishers in the world.

    8. One of the largest music publishers in the world.

    9. One of the largest comics publishers in the world.

    This has the potential for First Amendment abuses that border on frightening. It may give new meaning to the phrases "bias media" and "conflict of interest."
  • . . .it used to be the policy of the U.S. government to keep content producers and carriers separate.

    Don't you think that Time Warner has gone around this for years before AOL even entered the situation. I checked CNN through my Time Warner Cable connection and they said this would be great for consumers. That must be the way it is.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.
  • um, done. didnt you see the comdex best in show consumer electronics gateway aol linux device? (seriously)

    --Asa
  • Yes, it does seem our worst fears of "big brother" are being realized by "big corporation." But this megamerger is facilitated by the "government" in the first place.

    This is reminiscent of what the "government" did for us when in the Reagan adminsistration the Savings and Loans were deregulated, resulting in the taxpayers having to finance a 1/2 trillion dollar bailout.

    Government wisdom comes only from the corporation that owns it.
  • The trouble with that is that I can't think of many corporations that are completely ethical. Want to heat your house? You have to deal with oil companies at some point. Want food? Unless you become a hunter-gatherer, you have to deal with companies that routinely rip off third-world farmers. Want to clothe yourself? Well you'll need a good job, as everything less expensive than Armani is made in third-world sweatshops, often by children. The list goes on. The consumer has little power to change this because everyone is doing it. The only organisation with enough power to take on the corps is the government, but the government just seems to be the enforcement arm of the corps these days.
  • What if the Justice Department had saddled Microsoft with similar constraints? Standardize the document and spreadsheet formats, so that any word processor or spreadsheet application can read, edit and save documents.
    So, how much time in prison do I get for using a non-government-approved file format?

    I'm not really in the mood to write a proper rant about this, but I'll just say briefly: By turning the dispute about MS's business practices into a holy-war, the anti-MS zealots have destroyed their followers' senses of perspective. If our problem is that we have too little choice in the products that we use, how would removing our freedom to choose completely help? Answer: It wouldn't. But it would make life a lot easier for the rich and powerful, by freeing them from the need to please their "customers".
  • it used to be the policy of the U.S. government to keep content producers and carriers separate.

    The operative words here are used to be. Think about it: The mouse (content producer) has owned ABC (carrier) for what, going on six years now? Viacom (CBS and MTV's current parent) has been both (syndicated programming content production AND cable networks) for a couple decades. Murdoch's News Corp./Fox is all over the map as well, from movie studios to TV broadcasting. Ironically, the thing that had the FCC the most worried was AOL acquiring the head ends of half the country's cable modems, when cable-based broadband figures to be a bit player in that industry (vs. 3G wireless and various DSLs) within the next few years.

    Now, the thing that has me more worried is the thought of AOL taking a lot of Time Warner's current web content (Money.com, Fortune.com, CNN.com as three examples) and improving their revenue basis by making them subscriber-only services: you'd have to be an AOL member (at $9.95/mo. of course) to access the content. Don't think it couldn't happen; Yahoo's stock drop yesterday is indicative of the sorry state of the advertiser-supported web today.


    MOO;IANAL.

  • by J.J. ( 27067 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @04:18AM (#512011)
    You know, the idea of Instant Messenging service becoming a major sticking point between the merger of two multi-billion dollar corporations strikes me as somewhat silly. But while reading the constraints that AOL is bound to by the FCCs decision, I'm struck by an interesting thought.

    In order to neutralize the effectiveness of AOLs IM in competetive situations, the FCC is trying to force AOL to create and adhere to a standard, so that any company can create an IM client, and interact with AOL's.

    Using an established standard, to open up a company's monopoly on services.

    What if the Justice Department had saddled Microsoft with similar constraints? Standardize the document and spreadsheet formats, so that any word processor or spreadsheet application can read, edit and save documents. For people in the business world, this is easily the biggest hurdle to switching to Linux. (yes, yes, yes, I know, "Linux will do it, freedom from the yoke of MS control! without their help!" spare me. it's not perfect, and it needs to be)

    If people had the freedom to choose which program they used to read their documents, then Microsoft would have to work a lot harder to build better software. Attarct users based on the qualities of the software, not based on what format your files are in. We'd see more word processors crop up, more spreadsheet applications, because suddenly there would be this gigantic installed base of users, itching to try out something little/yellow/different/better.

    So. That whole idea is not really fully developed, but I've got to run. You want to finish it off for me and solidify it bit, feel free.

    J.J.
  • A beta version of AOL for Linux is already out there floating around. Gakkk!
  • You have _got_ to be kidding.

    "Progress Report: technically, our progress is nil because we have taken actions technically described as 'doing squat'"

    Thank you, see you in 180 days??

  • It's not like you have a right to music, or a computer, or games, or net access, or any other goddam thing that you can't produce yourself.

    Perhaps not, but we do have the right to demand that corporations adhere to certain rules and principles. It's the price they pay for the protections and benefits that we, the people, grant them through our government.

  • Alien54,

    Look, when you combine the #1 Internet service provider with the largest mass media company in the world, the result is that AOL Time Warner can dictate a very large fraction of what we read in magazines, what we see in movie theaters, what we see on TV (broadcast, cable AND DBS), and what we see on the Internet on commercial sites.

    If this isn't frightening in terms of mass media control I don't know what is.
  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @04:08AM (#512030) Journal
    Think about it: AOL Time Warner is now the world's most powerful mass media entity, something right out of the James Bond movie TOMORROW NEVER DIES. Look at what they will own now:

    This is why I can see Microsoft looking to model themselves after AOL in the coming years, with their .NET proposal, etc.

    Question is, is this enough to stop Microsoft? Are they a big enough opponent?

    and is this something we would even want?

    Or should we look forward to the rumored AOL OS in the works? (more spam, more often!)

  • It makes sense that if anyone is going to play the part of big brother as portrayed in books like 1984 it will start with big businsess. At least in the US, the current government structure is changed at least every 8 years. In order to excercise the kind of blatant violations of freedom that big brother implies it requires a consistent leadership and lots of patience. Freedom can't be snatched away all at once. You have to drain it away little by little so that no one notices that it's gone until it's too late to do anything about it. The current government that we have does not stay in place long enough to do this. The only way to get these results is when big business ownes the government. I can't see how the government agencies can allow this merger if they aren't being paid off.

    The news is being defined as what is said on CNN. They have become the definitive authority on news stories. And it doesn't matter if a minority knows better, as in 1984, a minority is considered to be insane, and they must be cured of their ills and be liberated so they too can love Big Brother. I don't know if AOL/Time Warner is going to run our lives, but if there is a threat, the huge companies that exist today (ex. Philip Morris) are the ones we should be afraid of, not the government. Don't loath the government, take it back. It's your government, get involved!
  • While you're pondering the meaning of this, consider: it used to be the policy of the U.S. government to keep content producers and carriers separate.

    Today, this would conflict with the policy of the US government to give some serious head to whoever can up big.

    On a slightly different note, we all saw what kind of a bullshit generator CNN and Time and the other usual suspects became during, say, the Kosovo conflict. It'll be even EASIER now for the good ol' gov't to make sure more citizens are informed with the latest and greatest bit of quality, honest reporting. I wonder how long before they forget to include an off-switch to a AOL-CNN news feed monitor...

    ---

  • Today, CNN reports that AOL is "the greatest internet provider of all time".

    In a survey of several dozen Atlanta residents, AOL soundly trounced other internet providers in terms of customer satisfaction. Almost unanimously, none of the survey's respondents actually used anything other than AOL.

    some quotes:
    "I signed up for Earthlink but I couldn't figure out how to get that My Connection doohickey to work, so the very next day, I got an AOL CD in the mail, I popped it up, and a few hours later, when the phone dialed in, I was connected! It was great!" -Jimbob Peachtree

    "I'm often ridiculed by elitist hackers on the internet when they find out I have AOL. They think there (misspelling intentional guys - it's part of the joke!) so smart, but they don't even know what they're missing, all that Bugs Bunny stuff, and Instant Messenger. I bet all they got is email, no chat I bet." - Peggy Sue Corndoggie

    "As soon as I bought my first new computer, I knew I made the right choice, because when I turned it on - BAM! it said Microsoft Windows! That was great man. I only buy the best, after all. My computer has a 4 gig disk of RAM bytes too. It's so fast. So when I saw them two icons on the screen, Sign up for AOL, and Sign up for MSN, I said I was going to sign up with AOL because all of my friends are on it, and I want to be on their buddy-lists - so I signed up and I IM my buddies every day now." - "Cooter"

    In other news, the last DSL connection was switched off today, as competition with Cable has forced all DSL providers out of the broadband market. It was said that the inability of people with DSL to download streaming Bugs Bunny movies due to a technical glitch, drove customers to Cable.
    AOL and Microsoft are teaming up to develop a new, hacker-proof protocol to run on the internet with Windows computers, that will replace the 30 year old TCP/IP protocol, that is said to be plauged with security holes and bugs, and is due to run out of addresses later this year.
  • What would be more likely would be a partnership with the likes of Sony to build a closed device for AOL access - my guess would be sort of a cross between WebTV and 3com's ill-fated Audrey.
  • GWB and the (majority) republicans aren't even in office yet!

    With half a million less votes than the Democrats, this would have to be a new definition of "majority".

  • please don't hold your breath waiting for people to get more technically savvy.

    It's just not going to happen. Ever.

    I spent an hour arguing with a 13 year old last night about why AOL sucks. She just wanted to have her friends on her buddy list.
  • Almost. They have to open IM for any new versions that introduce new capabilities like video. They do not have to open their current network!

  • by andr0meda ( 167375 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @04:15AM (#512052) Journal
    First, about the merger itself [salon.com], some reactions from a few known and lesser-known people [salon.com], and lastly a bit of content about what this means for competitive news&webcontent enterprises [salon.com].
  • Notice how (as of 9:25 eastern) on MSNBC, there is no mention of the merger. Where on CNN.com it is the cover story (CNN.com is part of time warner.) Just remember how biased the news can be :)
  • It isn't capitalism, it's oligarchism, where the old kings and lords are replaced by CEOs and VPs and lip-service is paid to the will of the people.
  • Now were gonna be bombarded with AOL infomercials.

  • by Masem ( 1171 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @03:38AM (#512058)
    First, since the FCC *and* FTC have both given the nod, this is it -- AOL and TW will now merge (if that's not already apparent).

    I'm against this deal for sure, but you need to remember that a lot of things went into this: it took more than a year for FCC and FTC to review it, during which both AOL and TW stock tumbled; Initially, most pointed out that AOL was 'buying' TW, but with the value of the companies now, it's more now that TW is 'buying' AOL; both companies had to divest themselves of several smaller aspects (biggest one that I can recall was TW owning part of AT&T, which they were told to give up), so neither is as bohemith as before; both the FTC and FCC have put several restrictions on the merger, most importantly that the merged company must make open access for all that have finiacal means, including a required contract with at least two other ISPs (Earthlink is one, I believe, that they've already gotten a deal down for); and AOL's had to make several concessions on the lucrative instant messaging market.

    Which means that for at least 5 years, AOL/TW will be under a government microscope -- if they so much as move to limit *non-premium* content from non AOL/TW users, you'd bet they have the goverment on their backs before you can say 'censorship'. Even with the DOJ on their case, Microsoft is much more free to do things now than AOL/TW is.

    I think that the FTC/FCC is looking at this as an experiment with rather high odds for the companies involved. If it is possible for a content provider AND network provider to coexist as the same company while playing fair to all other content and network providers out there, then they might let further mergers go through. If AOL/TW play rotten tricks, they'll take action to prevent this further.

    But as I mentioned above, the situation of the AOL/TW merger is drastically different now than the announcement a year ago that the thought of those two companies combined doesn't scare me as much -- it's still worrisome, but not as bad as, say, MS licensing issues.

  • or can equal a monopoly. In this case, Uncle Sam has given nearly exclusive access to a group of people, who all use software that is controlled by that same group. The users will all be directed to media and content provided by the same group.

    You're telling me that someone like, oh, MSNBC or the BBC, could get equal startup page area on AOL's home page?

    Being a monopoly is not just about being first, or the biggest, or having the most customers. However, the FTC and FCC did just give exclusive drilling rights (bad metaphor) to 10% of the population of this country, to one group.

    A monopoly exists in any of the following three cases:
    1. you have exclusive control
    2. you have a majority control (51%)
    3. you can adversely affect the market, e.g., overrule the "invisible hand"

    The FTC just gave T/W-AOL permission to do number 3, and AOL already has situation #1 over its users.
  • by Bojay Iverson ( 261262 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @03:38AM (#512061)
    FCC: No, Mr. Case, we're afraid we can't allow this takeover/merger to go ahead. It would create a monopoly far reaching in it's insidiousness.

    AOL: Is that right Mr. Chairman? Do you remember when you signed up for AOL? Do you remember the groups and sites you visited on that account? We do. We have all the logs of your visits to bizzaro dwarf world & amputeens. Are you sure you won't let this go though?

    FCC: Errm, OK. Please don't tell my wife about this.

    AOL: Muuuahhhaaaa, haha haahahah hahahhaahahhahahah ahhahahahahh, etcetera, etcetera...

  • by Markvs ( 17298 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @03:38AM (#512062) Journal
    Back in the 19th century, it was normal that a company had it's own newspaper and general store.

    So Time-AOL has content and bandwidth? SO WHAT!

    Media of *any* kind is telling you something, it's what you want to believe that makes the news. Pravda was widely disbelieved in the USSR (and other countries) under Communism. My relatives in Communist Prague back in the 70s and 80s *knew* to read the news with a grain of salt.

    Have we forgotten that?

    Do we assume that the media should always be presented in truth... if so, who's truth?

  • No, read it again. and again.

    It says those conditions apply *IF AND ONLY IF* they do next generation im.

    We are still screwed.
  • How can they prevent you from saying what you want to say? Well, I suppose they can't stop you from going out on the street and yelling. But they *CAN* stop others from *HEARING* it. Want to sell some music? You're at their mercy. Want to write an expose magazine article? At their mercy. Want to write a comic? At their mercy. Want to decide for yourself what to watch? Tough, you don't decide, they do. Want to slam them with a scathing website? Oops, sorry, you do not conform to their terms of service, bye bye.

    Yes this is very scary.
  • They only required them to open IM up IF AND ONLY IF they go to next generation IM services like video conferencing.

    As to the content, its a HUGGGGE loophole for them to get thru. IE, sign contracts to provide that content at a RIDICULOUS price. Think its nutty? look at the Earthlink deal they signed, its insane.

  • Classic SNL. There's nothing like it.
  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @03:40AM (#512078)
    Eventually, there will just be one giant media corporation that provides our entertainment and news. Once that happens, we'll finally be able to rely on the news that is provided to us, because there will be no other bothersome entities to provide conflicting reports! Finally -- news you can trust! *COUGH*
    ---
    seumas.com
  • My relatives in Communist Prague back in the 70s and 80s *knew* to read the news with a grain of salt.

    Unfortunately, my (limited) experience suggests that Joe Average American on the street firmly believes that propaganda and self-interested news bias is something that only happens in other countries, like Iraq and Serbia.

    During the conflict with Serbia, the story as told by CNN was disturbingly different to the story that emerged from a healthier variety of sources from around the world. But mention that at the time, and you'd go down in roaring flames from the hundreds who don't watch any other news-source, and don't need to. 'Cause the American news is the true one!

    To be fair, it was probably easier in Communist Prague - the spin was probably a bit more overt. In the US today, the marketing industry has made a science of manipulation, much of which is used outside that field. And it works in ways that not even buckets of salt can stop. (Though the salt does stop the more blatent stuff).
  • by cansecofan22 ( 62618 ) on Friday January 12, 2001 @03:42AM (#512081) Homepage
    I wonder how many people think that this could be a good thing? Think about it, AOL hates Microsoft. So, if AOL/TW jumped on the Linux bandwagon and released a version of AOL for Linux with, say, K-Office or Open Office integrated with a Red Hat or Mandrake (just an example) Distro, all on 1 cd that comes free with your time warner cable internet and cable tv. How many AOL members would switch to the AOL/Linux? I am betting a lot because of the Internet interface that they know and love and the FREE office suite and OS.
    Just a thought passing through my head, it know it is HIGHLY unlikley, but it is possible!
  • Doesn't AOL universally use encrypted-blacklist style censorware?

    If so, the govt. might not need to bother trying to make censorware manditory, when it looks like the only way to avoid it will soon be to go to a specialist provider that doesn't get its bandwidth from the new megagiant (and thus miss out on the great home entertainment/cable/music one-stop package deals that I imagine will soon be the norm).

    Is there any way for AOLers to opt out of having their feed auto-censored?

    If not, the political, social and especially financial clout of that hidden blacklist is going to be amazing.

    Could you sue for libel if mis-catagorised, despite their disclaimers? You could definitely show damages...

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