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Time Warner Cable to offer AOL Net access

AOL Time Warner Chief Executive Gerald Levin says that Time Warner Cable has agreed to carry the America Online Internet service on its high-speed network.

AOL Time Warner Chief Executive Gerald Levin said Wednesday that Time Warner Cable has agreed to carry the America Online Internet service on its high-speed network.

AOL Time Warner executives declined to comment further on the agreement, but the deal was inked in the "last couple of days," Levin added during a press conference Wednesday.

Such an agreement has been speculated about ever since America Online and Time Warner announced their merger intentions last January. AOL Time Warner owns the second-largest cable system in the United States after AT&T. Before the merger, AOL had lobbied heavily for regulators to force the cable industry to open cable lines to competitors. But the deal became AOL's foothold into owning and offering its service on high-speed cable lines.

During the approval process of the deal, federal regulators, competitors and legislators expressed concerns that AOL Time Warner would not live up to its promises to open its high-speed cable network to rival Internet service providers. The Federal Trade Commission eventually forced Time Warner Cable to strike a carriage deal with rival ISP EarthLink as a condition to approving the merger.

The FTC also imposed a timetable for AOL Time Warner to fulfill its promises. As part of its consent agreement, AOL Time Warner must strike carriage deals with two other rival ISPs within 90 days of launching AOL's cable service.

Levin and AOL Time Warner executives would not elaborate on terms of the AOL deal, nor would they comment on whether the agreement is similar to EarthLink's terms.