We here at Consumerist are skeptical at best about Comcast’s bid to merge with Time Warner Cable. From where we sit, the deal looks distinctly anticompetitive and likely to harm consumers. Plenty of other folks agree, but not just lawmakers and advocacy organizations. It turns out, over half the country thinks this is a bad idea.
Our colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports ran a nationally representative survey to see what ordinary people think about Comcast and its plan to buy out Time Warner Cable, and the responses weren’t pretty. A full 56% of Americans oppose the merger, and only 11% of respondents were in favor of it.
But even though a third of respondents didn’t have a strong opinion on whether Comcast and TWC should be able to merge, they still think the resulting corporate marriage will be harmful for consumers on every front.
About three quarters of respondents — 74% — believe that the merger will increase cable and internet prices for everyone. That same number also agreed that the merger will leave consumers with even fewer choices for providers, because smaller companies will not be able to compete.
As for customer service? The most-hated providers in the most-hated industry aren’t likely to win themselves any new fans with this move. A solid two thirds (66%) believe that the lack of competition will leave Comcast with no reason to bother improving their customer service — which 54% predicted will get even worse.
But above all else — customer service, costs, and monopolistic tendencies — consumers are concerned about their very ability to access the content of their choosing. With net neutrality regulations up in the air and peering disputes affecting content companies nationwide, it’s no surprise that a full 81% of respondents are afraid that Comcast’s post-merger market share would give them the leverage to favor their own programming and scuttle their competitors’.
Comcast’s claims about how beneficial their plan to buy TWC is, on the other hand, don’t seem to fly at all. Just 16% agreed that the merger would increase Comcast’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.
Delara Derakhshani, policy counsel for Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, said, “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.”
Maybe that’s why Comcast earned itself a shiny golden poo this year. Meanwhile, the survey respondents have already proven to be prescient: 61% felt that if the merger were to be go forward, it would be seen as a green light for other companies to make the same move.
The survey was conducted in April; AT&T and DirecTV announced their plan to merge — for the sake of competing with Comcast, they claim — in May.