Consumers opposed to Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, survey says

A majority of consumers in the U.S.--56 percent--oppose the proposed mega-merger between Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), according to a new survey from Consumer Reports.

The two companies are among the least well-liked or respected by consumers and merging them together doesn't appear to make them any more attractive, the survey found.

"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," Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said in a prepared statement.

A full 56 percent of Americans oppose the merger with only 11 percent of respondents in favor of it. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) are convinced the merger will result in higher bills for their cable and Internet services. The same number also agreed the merger will leave them with fewer choices for providers because smaller companies won't be able to compete against the giant combined entity. Only 16 percent of those surveyed agreed with Comcast's assertion that the deal will increase the company's operating efficiency and lower consumer prices, and only a third agreed that the combination of the two companies would allow for more innovative products and services to reach consumers.

Respondents to the survey also said they worry that the deal will be a blow to net neutrality. With fewer and bigger gatekeepers in place, 81 percent of those surveyed said they were at least somewhat concerned that a combined Comcast-TWC would play favorites with video content.

Meanwhile, in a blog post on Thursday, the Washington Post's Brian Fung laid out how New York state regulators could derail the merger should they determine it doesn't meet the needs of New York consumers. In the wake of new franchise laws in the state, New York regulators have vowed to take a close look at the merger. The state's public service commission began holding the last of three hearings on the issue on June 19 to consider the ramifications of a combined Comcast-TWC.

If Comcast fails to convince state regulators that the merger will benefit consumers, the PSC has the power to block the marriage within the state. And while state regulators can't stop the merger altogether, a denial could force the two media giants back to the bargaining table, Brad Ramsay, the top lawyer for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, told The Washington Post.

"They can't stop the entire merger, but they can stop the part that involves facilities in the state of New York," Ramsay said in an interview. "Would that require [Comcast] to go back to the drawing board? Well, if it's central to the synergies in this merger, sure."

New York is critical to the deal for Comcast, which has only 23,000 customers in the state compared to the 2.5 million homes served by Time Warner Cable. Should the merger pass, New Yorkers would account for nearly 10 percent of the merged company's total customer base, according to paper.

For more:
- Consumer Reports has this study
- Advanced Television has this story
- The Washington Post has this story

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