America Online passed another milestone Friday when it said its online service had surpassed 33 million subscribers worldwide. Despite AOL's recent increase of its subscription rate to $23.90 a month, the company continues to be by far the biggest U.S. Internet service provider, easily outdistancing Microsoft's 7 million MSN subscribers and EarthLink Inc.'s 4.6 million subscribers.
AOL attributes much of its recent growth to the October release of version 7.0 of its online service. The updated service is being used for almost half of all online sessions in the United States.
AOL, the online services subsidiary of AOL Time Warner, also said Friday it has finished deployment of its AOL High-Speed service in the 20 largest cable-TV markets served by the parent company's Time Warner Cable subsidiary. The high-speed service provides access to the AOL service on coaxial-cable TV networks operated by Time Warner Cable. AOL also offers high-speed access to the service via digital subscriber line services provided in partnership with BellSouth, SBC Communications, Qwest Communications, and Verizon Communications, as well as via the DirectPC satellite service.
Separately, the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday gave its go-ahead to agreements between AOL Time Warner and four nonaffiliated ISPs whose customers will use AOL Time Warner's high-speed cable network to access the ISPs' services. The agreements fulfill a condition imposed by the FTC when it approved the $106 billion merger of AOL and Time Warner in January. At the time, the FTC said AOL Time Warner would have to let at least three ISPs use its cable-TV networks to connect to subscribers in areas where AOL Time Warner offers high-speed services.
The FTC's approval applies to deals with Inter.net US Ltd. for interconnection with all of Time Warner's cable divisions; New York Connect.Net Ltd. for interconnection in New York City; Internet Junction Corp. for interconnection in Tampa Bay and central Florida; and Stic.Net for interconnection in the Texas cities of San Antonio, Houston, and Austin.