Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal would create formidable giant
With 300,000 customers across southern New Hampshire - from Peterborough to Portsmouth, up to Concord and the Upper Valley - Comcast is already a force to be reckoned with in the Granite State.
If regulators approve a proposed merger of the two cable giants, most likely under the Comcast banner, one company will own most of the New Hampshire marketplace for video, high-speed Internet and landline phone service delivered by cable.
Representatives of both companies say customers will benefit from the improved technology and new services the larger company can offer. Opponents of the merger worry about a narrowing of choices for consumers in video content and greater control by Comcast over Internet traffic through fees and pay-to-play deals like the one Comcast recently reached with Netflix.
Most consumers don't experience competition for cable service. With few exceptions, cable systems operate as a monopoly through individual agreements with each municipality. At a time when many consumers would like to see more competition in the cable industry, the merger takes them in the opposite direction.
More than 10,000 people have signed an online petition to President Obama on the official White House petition website calling on the administration to "Stop the Comcast/TimeWarner Cable merger and require more competition in the cable industry."
"Enough is enough," the petition reads. "In most areas of the U.S. there is virtually no competition for cable services and we're stuck with having to pay for dozens of cable channels that we never will watch in expensive bundles of content . It's time for the U.S. to develop and encourage a better way for us to get access to good TV entertainment."
With 10,000 signatures on the White House site, the anti-merger petition has a long way to go toward its target of 100,000 signatures, and is far behind other hot topics like "Pardon Edward Snowdon" (154,000 signatures) or "Declare the Muslim Brotherhood a Terrorist Organization" (200,000 signatures).
While questions about consumer choice, rising prices and Internet neutrality dominate the national conversation about the merger, each state has its own economic concerns.
Comcast and Time Warner are individually among the largest employers in New Hampshire. Comcast employs 1,500 in the Granite State, while Time Warner employs 880 across Maine and New Hampshire, according to company officials.
Manchester hosts the Comcast Northern Division headquarters, while the Comcast Quality Control Center in Salem, just opened in 2011, employs more than 280 workers engaged in testing hardware for some 2.4 million Comcast customers in five New England states.
Impact on bills
One beneficiary of the merger in New Hampshire will be small- to medium-sized businesses with locations in the northern and southern parts of the state, or in Massachusetts, according to John Demming, executive director of corporate communications at Comcast.
Time Warner Cable customers stand to benefit from new features that Comcast would bring to their cable systems, such as the Xfinity X1 Operating System, a cloud-based guide with on-demand choices, apps for weather, traffic and sports, and integration with Facebook and Pandora.
Comcast has promised to invest millions to improve Time Warner Cable's networks, with higher speeds and greater reliability, and will soon be offering cloud-based DVR in the New Hampshire market.
He said the merged companies will be better able to compete on a national level with other organizations like DirecTV or DISH, as well as the "telecos" like Verizon and AT&T.