updated 08:53 am EDT, Tue July 1, 2014
Consumers agree that prices will rise, quality of service will drop
Customer rights group Consumer Reports has run a survey evaluating the public's opinion of the Time Warner Cable and Comcast merger, and the results strongly disapprove of the combined company. According to the survey, 56 percent of respondents oppose the merger, with 11 percent in favor. The remaining 33 percent had no strong opinion one way or another. However, most respondents still feel that the merger will have negative effects on consumers.
Time Warner and Comcast agreed to the merger in February. In discussions before federal regulators the company believes that end users will benefit from a "superior video experience, higher broadband speeds, and the faster in-home Wi-Fi." Businesses will be able to use advanced services such as "high-performance point-to-point and multi-point Ethernet services and cloud-based managed services," as well as complimentary advertising platforms.
Due to its size, the deal will receive a considerable amount of scrutiny from US regulators, as well as from shareholders, and therefore will take a long time to pass through all stages. Even so, Comcast believes the acquisition will close by the end of 2014.
Two-thirds of respondents to the Consumer Reports poll believed that the lack of competition will mean that the company won't take steps to improve already-terrible customer service. Around half of people polled (54 percent) believe that it will get much worse.
The biggest fear expressed by consumers believe that the combination will take advantage of its dominant market position, and squeeze out providers like Netflix -- 81 percent believe that the pair intend to do this, and favor the combined company's services over others, despite FCC mandates to the contrary.
Claims that consumers will benefit from the merger are mostly refuted by those polled. The stated goal of increasing operating efficiency is bought by only 16 percent of respondents, with 33 percent agreeing with the sentiment that the merger will bring more innovate products to consumers.
When asked about if the merger will increase cable and Internet pricing, the vast majority of respondents agreed that it would. Nearly three quarters (74 percent) of those polled thought that the merger would raise pricing industry-wide, giving fewer choices to customers.
Consumer Reports has an advocacy department -- the Consumers Union. The policy counsel of Consumers Union, Delara Derakhshani, said of the results that "most Americans don't have time to follow complicated corporate mergers, but this deal has definitely captured the public's attention. Consumers are tired of rising monthly bills and lousy customer service for cable and Internet, and have little faith that this mega-merger will make things any better."