Advocates urge review of AOL pact

Center for Digital Democracy sees problem with Access deal

NEW YORK — Consumer advocates have asked for a federal review of AOL Time Warner’s pact to carry Internet service provider High Speed Access Corp. on its cable lines as an unaffiliated Internet service provider.

In a letter, made available Tuesday, from the Washington-based Center for Digital Democracy to the Federal Trade Commission, Jeff Chester of the group said it feared High Speed Access won’t be a truly unaffiliated partner since the company’s owner, billionaire investor and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has a number of deals in place with AOL Time Warner through his other holdings.

As a condition to approval of the merger, the FTC required AOL Time Warner to have at least one rival Internet service provider available on its cable lines when the merged company launches its digital Internet service. Company must sign up two more within 90 days. AOL TW already has struck agreements with rival ISPs EarthLink and Juno Online Services.

“We are particularly concerned about the control which Mr. Allen’s Vulcan Ventures has over HSA, and underscores our concern that HSA may not be able to act as an independent ISP in its relationship to AOL TW,” Chester said.

Chester, who tried to persuade antitrust regulators to vote against the AOL-Time Warner union last year, asked the FTC monitor, Dale Hatfield, to investigate whether High Speed Access can act as an unaffiliated ISP.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)