ISPs for Open Access to AOL Instant Messenger

FRAMINGHAM (04/26/2000) - Two Internet service providers have joined the list of organizations that are asking the Federal Communications Commission to take action over the impending merger between America Online Inc. and Time Warner Inc.

Woburn, Massachusetts-based iCast Corp. and Tribal Voice in Denver are calling on the FCC to ensure open access to AOL's Instant Messenger (IM) online chat service. Currently, IM is designed to communicate only with other users of the service.

Yesterday, iCast - which is owned by Internet investment firm CMGI Inc. - and Tribal Voice filed papers with the FCC claiming that the impending AOL/Time Warner merger will hurt the instant messaging world by increasing AOL's dominance in the market.

In the documents, iCast and Tribal Voice urged the FCC to require that access to IM be opened before the merger is approved. The two companies accused AOL of not living up to its commitment to support open Internet communication.

"Allowing AOL to merge with Time Warner will only increase its ability to dominate and restrict consumers' freedom of choice in instant messaging," said iCast CEO Margaret Heffernan in a statement.

"AOL has already proven that, while they pay lip service to the principle of openness, they are doing everything they can to build a wall around the instant messaging market," Heffernan said. "Bullies are bullies, and getting bigger rarely makes them any more responsible."

Ross Bagully, CEO at Tribal Voice, accused AOL of holding the fate of the industry hostage by refusing to open its service to other providers.

The nation's leading consumer groups today asked the FCC to block the AOL/Time Warner merger because it would harm consumers by reducing the diversity and program choices in video and Internet content. The groups also contend consumers would be forced to pay higher prices for cable and Internet services.

AOL did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

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More about America OnlineAOLCMGIFCCFederal Communications CommissioniCastMessengerOpen AccessTime WarnerTribal Voice

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