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"Our message to them is: ‘If you can't fix the deal, then kill it.'"
——Jeff Chester, executive director at the Center for Media Education

RIVALS READY FOR FINAL BATTLE
TO STOP AOL-TW MERGER

Opponents Are So Angry, They’re Firing Off Letters, Stomping Feet, Holding Breath
Opponents of the proposed America Online-Time Warner merger are prepping a last-minute counterattack in an attempt to get the Federal Trade Commission to block the merger or impose significant restrictions.

The FTC is slated to vote Thursday (12/14) on the $183 billion merger, and a slim majority of the five commissioners is reportedly prepared to approve the deal (hitsdailydouble.com, 12/11).

But small- and medium-size Internet service providers, along with consumer groups and American Civil Liberties Union, are contacting FTC officials and urging them to impose serious conditions or kill the deal, The Hollywood Reporter said.

"Our message to them is: ‘If you can't fix the deal, then kill it,'" Jeff Chester, executive director at the Center for Media Education, which has been working with small and mid-size Internet companies, told the Reporter. "Killing the deal would do more than anything to keep the Internet competitive."

Qwest Communications, one of the mid-size Internet companies in question wrote a letter to the FTC, stating, in part, "The concessions offered by Time Warner to date are grossly inadequate and further support Qwest's position that there remain significant risks to competition in the emerging market for broadband access service."

According to sources close to the deal, the FTC is demanding that AOLTW open their high-speed Internet networks to at least three providers in each market, according to the Reporter report.

Meanwhile, a Reuters story today has cast some doubt on the reports earlier this week that a majority of the FTC commissioners was leaning toward approving the AOL-TW deal. According to Reuters, Chairman Robert Pitofsky has misgivings about the merger, although he hasn't revealed which way he'll vote. Pitofsky and others have been meeting with AOL competitors in the Internet service industry.  An industry source familiar with Pitofsky's views said the Chairman finds the deal problematic.

The FTC commissioners will meet at 11 a.m. (ET) on Thursday to decide whether to approve the deal or to move to block it, the last major hurdle for the acquisition to pass.

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