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Solons worry about AOL-TW merger

Several members of Congress have warned Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky and FCC Chairman William Kennard of the dangers of letting AOL and Time Warner merge unfettered by conditions.

Late last month, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) sent letters to the heads of each agency, asking them to consider the concerns of "technology firms, content providers, consumer groups and labor unions. The potential for the new AOL Time Warner to discriminate against unaffiliated Internet service and content providers raises fundamental questions about whether AOL Time Warner will safeguard competition and consumer choice," Kennedy wrote.

Kennedy also asked the chairmen to evaluate the instant-messaging industry to see whether AOL dominates that market. Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) asked Kennard to pay particular attention to "the effect of instant messaging on the competitive marketplace."

Sens. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wrote both men about instant messaging, emphasizing "how critical it is that competing IM systems standardize their interoperation-just as our nation's telephone and e-mail providers do today."