AOL Broadband leader goes on 'break'

The president of America Online's (AOL) broadband unit is taking a "break" and will be replaced by another unit leader, an AOL spokesman said last Friday, leaving investors and users to speculate over the future of the company's broadband plans.

AOL Broadband President Audrey Weil will leave the company in May and is due to return during the third quarter to take on new responsibilities, AOL spokesman Jim Whitney said. Weil is being replaced with Lisa Hook, president of AOL Anywhere, the company's mobile applications division.

The executive switch comes at a time when AOL is under pressure to bring its aggressive broadband plans to fruition. During a conference call on its fourth-quarter results in January, Richard Parsons, co-chief operating officer (COO) and soon-to-be chief executive officer of AOL parent company AOL Time Warner Inc., said that the company would be "intensely focused on the build-out of broadband." AOLTW has staked a lot of its future business expectations on the company's ability to sell and promote its media assets over the broadband capabilities of its ISP (Internet service provider).

Industry analysts have complained that the rollout has been slower than expected, saying that the company needs to make a decisive move to fulfill its needs, either by acquiring another cable company or making widespread pacts with other ISPs to gets its service distributed through their pipes.

All eyes will most likely be focused on Hook for signs of a clear broadband direction when she ascends to the unit's hot seat in May.

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