The Jan. 13 editorial "AOL-Time Warner" understated serious concerns about the potential dangers of the merger. America Online is the nation's largest Internet service provider, and Time Warner serves almost 20 percent of the nation's cable customers. AT&T, which serves more than 30 percent of the nation's cable customers, will be part owner of Time Warner if its acquisition of MediaOne is approved. The question is whether the cable-Internet service of AOL-Time Warner will face meaningful competition.

Telephone digital subscriber lines, wireless and satellite services offer Internet access, but none now offers a television-like product that effectively competes with AOL-Time Warner's broadband service. Television remains the dominant medium from which most Americans receive their news and other important information.

Since the attributes of television are so powerful, and the nation's cable systems remain virtual monopolies controlled by a few companies, the Consumers Union will ask federal regulators to ensure that AOL-Time Warner cannot discriminate against others who seek to combine cable and Internet services. We also will seek to separate Time Warner and AT&T from any common cable ownership to prevent undue influence over the cable television market.


Co-Director, Consumers Union