Given that High Speed Access is partly owned by billionaire Paul Allen, who is also involved in business dealings with AOL Time Warner, consumer advocates asked federal regulators in a letter filed Tuesday to investigate whether HSA qualifies as an "unaffiliated" Internet service provider as required by regulators in their initial approval of the merger.
In December, the FTC, as a condition for approving the merger between AOL and Time Warner, required AOL Time Warner to offer one rival broadband Internet service provider access to its cable system before AOL can begin such a service, followed by at least two additional services within 90 days.
Last month, the company named Juno Online Services, EarthLink, and High Speed Access to fill those slots.
Allen owns and controls Charter Communications, which is one of the largest cable providers in the United States. The consumer groups argue in the letter that because Charter purchases a range of programming from AOL Time Warner, HSA does not qualify as an unaffiliated ISP as required by the consent decree.
Through Charter, Allen holds a number of joint ventures and shared investments with AOL Time Warner. According to the letter, these include, for example, the Los Angeles-based cable TV advertising venture Adlink.
"It appears to me that AOL Time Warner is disregarding the spirit if not the letter of the consent decree," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, which was joined by the Consumers Union and the Media Access Project in filing the letter to the FTC.
AOL Time Warner and HSA were not available for comment.