WASHINGTON — AT&T Corp., the nation's largest long-distance phone company, won't be forced to let rivals have unfettered access to its high-speed cable-TV networks in order to win approval of its $61-billion purchase of No. 2 cable operator Tele-Communications Inc., the Federal Communications Commission said.
Some competitors, such as America Online Inc., the largest Internet service provider, have lobbied the FCC to force the combined company to open its cable networks to rivals, much as local phone companies must.
FCC Chairman William Kennard's public rejection of the proposal is a win for cable companies, which contend that it would discourage investment in new networks to provide phone and Internet service, and a loss for Internet companies seeking access to high-speed connections to keep customers online longer.
"At this point, because the Internet is still in its infancy, it's not appropriate today to write such rules," Kennard said. The agency's staff favors approval of the deal, and analysts don't expect the FCC to attach any significant conditions to the transaction.
The FCC's decision is a blow for AOL and other companies that want to buy AT&T-TCI's Internet links without the online content offered by TCI's affiliated online service, @Home Corp.