AOL Time Warner Inc. must prove that its business relationships with High
Speed Access Corp. will not interfere with the small Colorado Internet-service
provider's independence and ability to compete with AOL Time Warner's own
high-speed-access service, consumer groups said Tuesday.
The Center for Digital Democracy, the Consumers Union and the Media Access
Project complained that because of ties to AOL Time Warner through 50 percent
investor Paul Allen, HSA will not be able to operate independently of AOL Time
Allen, the consumer groups noted, also owns MSO Charter Communications Inc.,
which has a number of joint ventures and shared investments with AOL Time
Warner, including Los Angeles interconnect Adlink and Oxygen Media.
HSA also has an existing relationship with AOL Time Warner's Road Runner
high-speed Internet service.
And Charter cable systems are major purchasers of AOL Time Warner
Finally, the CDD's Jeffrey Chester noted, HSA's content agreement with
Allen's Vulcan Ventures Inc. requires HSA to carry on an exclusive basis in all
cable systems it serves content Vulcan designates.
AOL Time Warner officials, however, denied that they have any influence over
Separately, the Federal Trade Commission found Tuesday that AOL Time Warner
and Vivendi Universal illegally fixed prices for audio and video products
featuring The Three Tenors.
'These are companies with a long, documented history of abusing their
relationships with artists and consumers,' CDD policy associate Andrew Goldman