Will Customer Service Kill the Comcast Merger?

Service concerns are delaying a vote by New York regulators.

Tomorrow was supposed to be the day New York regulators would give their blessing to the Comcast-Time Warner merger. Now it’s not. Why?

Customer service.

Comcast Customer Service Blasted By NY Officials; Time Warner Cable Merger Vote Delayed: Just a few weeks after New York state officials outlined the horrendous state of customer service at Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the New York Public Service Commission has delayed its vote on the proposed merger between the two cable companies. The commission had planned to vote on the $45 billion transaction Wednesday, but amid growing concerns about the merger’s impact on New York — Time Warner Cable’s home state — officials pushed back the vote to Nov. 13. … In two public filings, Erin P. Hogan, UIU’s director, said the companies’ current level of customer service is “simply not acceptable for New York,” and she expressed concern that the track record would further erode if the merger is approved — or at least if it is approved without a litany of conditions. (International Business Times)

Previously: Comcast Names Exec in Charge of Making Customers Less Ragey

N.Y. Pushes Comcast-Time Warner Ruling Back One Month: From Albany to Sacramento, the nation’s two biggest cable providers are trying to appease state officials reviewing the $45.2 billion deal. If a key state like New York rejects the acquisition, it could lead the companies to abandon the plan. In New York, the commission’s staff has recommended the acquisition be approved only if concessions are included that it says would cost Philadelphia-based Comcast $300 million. The proposals would require a post-merger Comcast to keep jobs in the Empire State, offer faster broadband, improve customer service, expand in rural areas and ease enrollment standards for a program that offers cheap, high-speed Internet service to poor families. Federal law gives state regulators 120 days to review requests for approval. If the regulator doesn’t decide within that time frame, the deal is automatically granted, unless the company agrees to an extension, which Comcast did. Nov. 13 will be 182 days from the company’s initial filing. (Bloomberg)

In other Comcastic news:

Writers Guild lobbies DC on Comcast/Time Warner merger: One of the most powerful unions in Hollywood is lobbying in Washington this week, trying to protect jobs for its members. The Writers Guild of America, which represents more than 15,000 movie and TV writers nationwide, is focused on stopping cable mergers. … In an informal Capitol Hill briefing, the former head of the Writers Guild of America told Congressional staffers and freshman Democratic Congressman Tony Cardenas of the San Fernando Valley that allowing Comcast – which owns NBC/Universal – to merge with Time Warner would produce a company that not only creates content, but would control distribution. “And when you own the cradle to the grave,” he says, “it has a very chilling effect on the way writers and actors and directors and other creative types can do our work.” (KPCC)

Media Companies Afraid To Show FCC Their Comcast Contracts Because Rivals Might Learn Their Secrets: It’s no secret that media companies are pretty worried about the repercussions of letting Comcast and Time Warner Cable merge. But what is a big secret are the agreements that those companies have with Comcast and TWC right now. They’re so secret, in fact, that networks are refusing to share any data with the FCC because they’re afraid their rivals might benefit from it. And that’s a problem, because without that data, the FCC is missing one of the key tools it should have in its toolbox as it evaluates the merger. … The FCC is tasked with trying to decouple reality from rhetoric, and theoretically acting on the former. In order to evaluate Comcast’s negotiating tactics, the FCC needs to be able to take a look at those negotiations. The Commission can’t determine if Comcast’s behavior is harmful and anticompetitive, or just aggressive and profit-driven, without any actual evidence. And the content companies are deeply unwilling to let the FCC have a look. (Consumerist)

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