AOL, Time Warner chiefs try to placate Senate panel

Bigger is better — at least in the mega-merger of America Online and Time

Warner Inc.

The companies told the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing on Tuesday

that their consolidation and collaboration would not hurt the public. In

fact, their CEOs said, it would open doors for consumers in ways never seen

before and give them new goods and services at better prices.

The two CEOs pointed to a new agreement between AOL and Time Warner to open

their cable TV systems to other Internet service providers when their deal

is completed. The pledge could press the rest of the industry to follow

suit, giving consumers more choices. It was disclosed only hours before

the congressional hearing to explore the public policy implications of the

merger.

"We see this as more than a merger of companies. We see it as a merger of

ideas — a shared commitment to empower consumers, communities, families

and citizens — expanding their choices, bringing more value into their lives

and building a global medium that benefits society," said Steve Case, CEO

at AOL.

Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin testified at the hearing that the AOL-Time

Warner merger is only the first in a line of business realignments as a

result of the Internet. "If we do it right, we will add new dimensions to

our economy and our democracy," Levin said.

Nevertheless, members of the panel were skeptical about the latest twist

in the $138 billion deal.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said a degree of

"healthy skepticism is in order given what is at stake here."

And Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said: "Our job is to make sure that [AOL and

Time Warner] have a fair opportunity to pursue their vision. But we must

be equally careful to make sure that others have a fair opportunity to pursue

their visions as well."

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