Could the end really be near?

America Online


was benefiting from news reports this morning that the

Federal Communications Commission

could give its approval to the proposed merger between AOL and

Time Warner


as early as today.


Wall Street Journal

reported this morning that even though a hurdle or two remain, the FCC could give the final stamp of approval needed for the America Online/Time Warner transaction. The

Washington Post

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reported today that two of the five-member FCC board was ready to approve the deal. The


says just one member now seems to be a holdout.

AOL was up 7.4% in preopen trading this morning, gaining $2.97 to $43 on light volume on


, the electronic trading network where investors can trade before the opening bell. Time Warner was not active.

The FCC approval process, once perceived as a cakewalk compared to the antitrust wringer the companies went through at the

Federal Trade Commission

last year, is proving to be a longer-than-expected course for AOL and Time Warner to navigate. The companies' pleas for December approval came to naught.

yesterday took a look at the

status of the deal, which has been held up by issues such as opening access to the combined company's high-speed cable systems.

Both stocks have been battered over the past several months, but they have climbed higher in recent days of trading.