ASPEN, COLORADO (08/21/2000) - Kicking off a technology policy conference here Monday, Time Warner Inc. CEO Gerald Levin called for more industry leaders' involvement in the regulatory process, which Levin claims should be "renovated" to reflect various access methods that now fall under the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.
"I've unfortunately had to articulate this while trying to get a transaction through. But I believe the private sector should have a role in shaping public policy," Levin said.
As to the regulatory climate surrounding his New York-based company's pending merger with Dulles, Va.-based America Online Inc., Levin said: "I'd prefer a more collaborative process to define the public interest, but I live in the current regime, and we have been very cooperative."
Still, that regime -- according to Levin, a keynote speaker at the Progress & Freedom Foundation's Aspen Summit 2000 -- rides herd over the "patchwork" set of regulations that have been stitched together throughout different FCC eras.
To stay ahead on global competition, the federal government will have to "roll back this discriminatory set of regulations," Levin said.
And in taking an active role in the AOL-Time Warner merger, the FCC is broadening its reach further, Levin continued.
"My view is that this is not a regulatory issue. It is a horizontal merger and there is no business overlap between the companies," he said.
Levin then took on the issue of open access, which is sometimes called "forced" access by those not ready to open up the broadband cable platform to competing Internet service providers.
"The boldest statement I can make is that the AOL-Time Warner merger is not about vertical integration. There was a lot of talk about Time Warner content only going over AOL. But that doesn't make sense at all. A network will die unless it takes material from different sources," Levin said.
Just as Time Warner won't limit itself to AOL as an outlet, nor will the combined company limit access to its broadband platforms.
Instead, AOL-Time Warner will deliver on its formally stated intent to extend open access, which was announced shortly after the pending merger was unveiled.
But currently standing in the way of that is the technical limitation of virtual routers being developed to separate out billing information for disparate ISPs.
Levin also vowed not to limit the amount of streaming video traveling over its broadband networks. Nor will the company now rule out allowing competing ISPs to approach and own the relationship with the end customer, he said.