The proposed combination of the two major cable companies in the Lowcountry is stoking concerns about whether consumers will have to pay more for their TV and Internet service after the deal.
Nina Bruhns of Summerville said she was worried about whether her bill would rise if Comcast is allowed to buy out her provider, Time Warner Cable.
A look at Comcast's holdings:
Comcast Cable: The largest U.S. provider of video, high-speed Internet and phone services to residential customers under the XFINITY brand. It also provides similar services to businesses.
NBCUniversal: Includes a broadcast arm, more than a dozen cable networks, digital, film and other businesses.
Broadcast: Founded in 1926, NBC was the first U.S. national broadcast network. It now provides national and local programing through more than 200 affiliated stations.
Cable: Includes Bravo Media, Golf Channel, E!, MSNBC, Syfy, USA Network, Weather Channel, CNBC and Oxygen Media.
Digital: Includes online video service Hulu and movie ticket seller Fandango.
Film: Creates and distributes films through Universal Pictures.
Parks, resorts: Theme parks in Florida and California.
Sources: AP Archives, Comcast website and corporate reports
"I really don't know anything about Comcast," the Pine Forest resident said Thursday. "I don't know if it's going to be a good thing or a bad thing. I have been pretty happy with Time Warner. They have been pretty responsive. I hope Comcast will have the same type of customer service."
Philadelphia-based Comcast has agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion in stock, a deal that is set to bring together the two largest cable providers in the nation and the Charleston region. If the acquisition is approved, Comcast will serve some 30 million pay TV customers and 32 million Internet subscribers.
An industry expert said the deal should have limited effects for either Comcast or Time Warner subscribers.
"I don't really see a lot change for Time Warner subscribers," said Jeff Kagan, a media industry analyst based in Atlanta. "The Time Warner customers will write a check to another company. It's not that different from that at Time Warner. Both offer the ability to watch cable on TV, computer, a tablet and a phone."
Kagan added that pricing should not jump any more than the traditional price increase cable companies institute on an annual basis.
He said that's largely due to Comcast and New York-based Time Warner not competing with each other in many areas.
"It's not like these two are competing for the same customer, so I don't think prices will go up, but it could if there are fewer major competitors in the marketplace."
The lack of competitors is why Vicki Wilkerson of Summerville wasn't happy when she heard about the deal.
"I'm not really crazy about the news," she said. "When Time Warner would go up on its prices, I would call Comcast and they would give me their prices."
She would then use that information as leverage to get Time Warner to match Comcast.
"Now, it's eliminating my competition so I don't have that option anymore," Wilkerson said. "It really worries me that we won't have that option."
Industry watchdogs argued that the deal will give Comcast too much power and ultimately raise the price of high-speed connections.
"How much power over content do we want a single company to have?" said Bert Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute, a Washington-based consumer-interest group.
David Cohen, a Comcast executive vice president, said during a conference call Internet-service prices will probably keep going up.
"We're certainly not promising that customer bills are going to go down or that they'll increase less rapidly," Cohen said.
Despite fears from local Time Warner customers, Comcast said in a statement that the combination brings "pro-consumer and pro-competitive benefits." That includes what the company touts as "accelerated deployment of existing and new innovative products and services for millions of customers."
Comcast pointed to its large cache of videos on demand, XfinityTV.com, Xfinity TV mobile apps for live streaming and the provider's Internet speeds.
Internet speeds have been a growing issue for cable providers in recent years as more customers cut the cord on traditional cable TV, instead migrating to Internet service solely to stream movies and other content from subscription services like Hulu and Netflix.
Such an issue led Comcast to recently tap the Charleston region to test its data caps, a means to free up valuable bandwidth and slow down data hogs.
In November each Lowcountry household with Comcast Internet service was allotted 300 gigabytes of online data per month, but they also can add as many extra blocks of 50 GB as they want - for $10 each, officials said.
At the time of the November announcement, data was unlimited for Internet subscribers of Time Warner Cable and WOW! Cable, a provider that acquired Knology in 2012.
Efforts to reach WOW! officials for comment were unsuccessful. AT&T's U-verse product is also available in the Lowcountry. A company spokesman declined to comment on the merger.
The deal with Comcast and Time Warner has to be approved by federal regulators and could have little to no input from South Carolina.
Dukes Scott, executive director of the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff, which represents consumers when utilities ask the Public Service Commission for permission to raise rates, said he doesn't believe his agency will get involved in the transaction.
"My expectation is that they will not be filing with the commission for approval," he said. "They will probably do a courtesy of advising the commission of the merger."
Abigail Darlington and the Associated Press contributed to this story.
AP/FILE Time Warner Cable would contribute 11.2 million pay TV customers under the proposed sale to industry rival Comcast.×
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