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While it is practically old news now, CEDaily would be remiss in not mentioning the story everyone else is talking about: the AOL/Time Warner merger, of course. Everyone from analysts and subscribers to vendors and this morning's Starbucks barrista are busy sizing up the deal and its rippling consequences.

Burning the midnight oil, or close to it, the FCC gave its final approvals with conditions last night. One of the most notable conditions requires AOL to open its instant messaging (IM) service to competitors. In the future, IM may become a valuable platform for carrying large amounts of data. While AOL's IM is a free service now, if it burgeons into a lucrative revenue stream, AOL may impose fees associated with the service. By imposing this condition now, the FCC may be trying to prevent a monopolistic situation from forming.

If and when AOL begins to offer advanced IM services, the FCC will require AOL to either sign a contract with a competitor that allows both networks' users to communicate across competing backbones, or create an industry-wide standard for IM use.

AOL has 26 million subs (and to think that five years ago, "experts" thought AOL was "so over"), while Time Warner boasts 20 million cable subs and a bunch of cable channels those subs watch, 36 magazines, seven record labels, and two major movie studios.

For more details than CEDaily has room for, visit the AOL Time Warner site and read the joint press release.

In other FCC business, Chairman William Kennard will resign his post January 19. Though not official, it looks as though Michael Powell will replace him.

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