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At Home/Road Runner merger not happening, AT&T exec says

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- AT&T-controlled At Home, a leading provider of high-speed Internet access over cable TV lines, doesn't plan to merge with rival Road Runner despite persistent rumors about such a deal, a top AT&T executive said Friday.

"I don't see it happening." said Leo Hindery, president and CEO of AT&T Broadband and Internet Services. "I think there's been excessive, inappropriate and undue speculation this last week about them coming together.""It's not on the table. It's not being discussed," Hindery added, responding to a question at a gathering of cable executives here.

Asked by reporters later whether such a union would make sense, Hindery replied: "It might."

AT&T recently acquired cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. and as a result, TCI's controlling stake in At Home, which also is owned by Cox Communications and several other investors.

Road Runner provides high-speed Internet access over cable TV lines, too. Its owners include Time Warner and MediaOne -- which on Monday entered into a deal to be taken over by Comcast Corp.

Separately, Hindery expressed concerns about what he said was an increase of racist Web sites on Internet and children's exposure to them. He didn't offer a plan to address those concerns but suggested policy-makers look into the matter.

Hindery, who said he's not a "proponent of censorship" noted that filtering or blocking technology can shield children from sites parents find offensive, but technology, he said, is not "foolproof."

"The Internet breeds some of the most hateful, sexist, racist, bigoted, nasty stuff I've ever seen in my life," Hindery said.

"There's got to be a way -- I don't know what it is-- that starts with some discussions at the policy-maker level here in Washington. There has got to be a way to hold people accountable for hate."

On another matter, Hindery told reporters he has no plans to jump ship to head up Seagram's entertainment division. "I have a long-term contract with AT&T. ... I'm with AT&T."

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Hindery was approached for the job.

As for cable rates, which will be deregulated March 31, Hindery said: "It would also be easy ... to raise our rates to levels that put the crucial price/value relationship in peril. But we cannot do that. And we must not."