FCC Protects AOL-AT&T-Comcast Deal

The Federal Communications Commission ruled Wednesday that it would not allow
certain outside parties to review AOL Time Warner Inc.'s high-speed-data
agreement with AT&T Broadband and Comcast Corp.

In a 3-1 decision, the commission said its staff had reviewed the agreement,
which was submitted to the Department of Justice, and determined that it was not
relevant to the FCC's duty to ensure that the merger between AT&T Broadband
and Comcast would serve the public interest.

'Based on this review and determination, we agree that the AOL ISP agreement
is not relevant to our public-interest analysis,' the FCC said.

Democratic commissioner Michael Copps dissented from the decision.

ISP EarthLink Inc. and a few consumer groups demanded confidential access to
the agreement, claiming that the terms AOL Time Warner accepted were highly
relevant in determining the scope of AT&T Comcast Corp.'s power in the cable
broadband-access market.

But the FCC said the market-power theory was misplaced because AOL would
receive largely the same access terms from AT&T Broadband if the merger with
Comcast failed to close.