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Most consumers in the United States oppose the proposed merger of the country’s biggest cable TV and broadband Internet providers, according to a new survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. The $45.2 billion deal, which would combine Comcast with Time Warner Cable, is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission.
Cable TV companies rank among the least trusted organisations that most Americans do business with, so it’s not surprising that the people are concerned. Seventy-four per cent of the public says they believe that prices will rise if the merger goes through, and two-thirds say that Comcast will have less incentive to improve customer service. The study, which drew on a nationally representative pool of 1,573 individuals, was conducted on behalf of the Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.
“Most Americans don’t have time to follow complicated corporate mergers but this deal has definitely captured the public’s attention,” Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, said. “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.” The new Comcast would control more than two-thirds of all cable television subscribers in the country, and nearly 40 per cent of the high-speed Internet market.
Respondents said they were also worried that the deal will be a blow to net neutrality, the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. With fewer, bigger gatekeepers in place, 81 per cent of people surveyed were at least somewhat concerned that the combined company will play favourites with video content. Along with its role as a service provider, Comcast is a content creator and broadcaster through its controlling interest in NBC Universal.
Respondents to the survey said that the merger could encourage further consolidation in the telecommunications industry. 2014 has seen a wave of merger activity. AT&T has proposed a $49 billion combination with DirecTV, and Sprint has expressed its intention to join forces with T-Mobile to create a strong No. 3 carrier in the mobile market. But neither of those developments would yield a category-leading juggernaut such as a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable,says Consumer Reports.