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As proposed, the merger is "inconsistent with the public interest," the protesters said in a filing with the FCC.


Media Groups See Pending Merger As Threat To Plurality
A coalition of consumer groups told the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday that America Online's proposed purchase of Time Warner should be rejected unless it is made more competitive.

Consumers Union, the Consumer Federation of America, the Media Access Project and the Center for Media Education argued the merger would diminish the number of voices available to the public, failing to meet the FCC requirement that the combination be in the public interest.

As proposed, the merger is "inconsistent with the public interest," they said in a filing with the FCC.

A spokeswoman for AOL disagreed and said the merger, "would deliver tremendous benefits to consumers, bringing people around the world more choice and more convenience in accelerating the roll-out of broadband services."

The combined giant would own cable companies, Internet service providers, a movie studio, major recording labels, magazines such as Time and Fortune and more. The consumer groups said the new company, which would likely compete with a similar behemoth owned by AT&T Corp., would be able to capture a large market for movies and other content moved across the Internet. But perhaps most significantly, the consumer groups said, the combined AOL firm could set its own standards over basic utilities of the Internet age, including e-mail, instant messaging, buddy lists, calendar management, and electronic programming guides.

"These interfaces are the sticky features that glue the customer to the service provider," the groups said. The consumer groups argued for universal standards rather than proprietary ones, to help open up the company to competition.

A number of companies and individuals have already complained that, in two instances, AOL designed software to exclude competitors. A group of consumers, not including any of the groups involved in the filing, has sued AOL in one of the cases. The consumer groups argued Wednesday that AOL must be forced to open up any cable systems it acquires to competing high-speed Internet service providers.

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