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Fri, May 19, 2000
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Senate Plans Hearings on AOL-Time Warner Deal
WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee said on Wednesday it would review America Online Inc.'s proposed $163 billion purchase of Time Warner Inc. and its potential effects on consumers.

The companies announced on Monday that AOL, the world's top Internet service provider, would buy Time Warner, the world's largest media company, in a stock transaction.

Experts do not expect serious antitrust problems, but consumers groups are opposing the deal.

Staff members from the Senate panel met on Wednesday with representatives of both companies to discuss "the implication for consumers and competition in the Internet market of their proposed merger."

"The discussions regarding this significant and complex deal were helpful and productive," Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said in a joint statement.

The committee's hearings will examine "open access" of broadband infrastructure; Internet music delivery services; content cul-de-sacs; consumer choice with respect to content; concentration and competition in the Internet service provider market; and the consequences for innovation in both Internet technology and services.

"As we see the landscape change at Internet speed, we need to ensure that we don't have an environment like that in which we found ourselves at the beginning of the last century; one which was dominated by oil barons and railroads, and ultimately resulted in heavy-handed regulation," Hatch said in a statement.

Hatch said on Monday the deal would have "profound public policy implications" and called for caution before embracing it.

Leahy added, "An element of caution is only prudent given the scope and impact of this planned merger."

"What we should do is make sure that all that information does not become funneled and controlled by just two or three sources," he said.

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