Public hearing tonight at UB on giant cable merger - The Buffalo News

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Public hearing tonight at UB on giant cable merger

Comcast says its proposed $45.2-billion merger with Time Warner Cable will provide consumers with faster Internet service and higher quality on-demand videos. Critics of the deal said it will result in higher rates, less competition and a media company with too much of the high-speed Internet market share.

Comments on the blockbuster merger, announced in February, will be heard tonight during a Public Service Commission meeting at the University at Buffalo’s Amherst campus.

The hearing, part of the state’s review to determine whether the merger is in the best interests of New York customers, will begin with an informational session at 6 p.m., followed by public comments at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Union Theater, 106 Student Union.

Time Warner Cable is Western New York’s largest provider of television cable and Internet services

While both companies are cable giants, their pay TV service is less the focus of the deal than the affect it will have on high-speed, or broadband, Internet service.

As a growing number of consumers are doing away with broadcast and cable TV, they are increasingly turning to the Internet for access to television programming, movies and phone services. Cable TV companies enjoy government-granted monopolies, but that doesn’t apply to the high-speed Internet service. And both companies currently have little or no competition in that market.

Together they would control about 40 percent of the broadband market in the country.

Time Warner Cable has roughly 2.6 million subscribers in New York, and Comcast 23,000. Nationally, Comcast has about 21.7 million and Time Warner has 11 million broadband customers. Verizon’s 6.1 million broadband subscribers will be greatly dwarfed if the merger is approved.

Comcast has said it’s willing to drop 3 million of the 11 million subscribers so the combined company can be within the legal bounds of serving no more than 30 percent of the market.

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