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Comcast, Time Warner Cable pairing worries consumers

– Cable subscribers don’t give Comcast and Time Warner Cable good grades when it comes to customer satisfaction.

So after Comcast announced its $45 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable on Thursday, it didn’t take long for consumers to start venting their frustrations over high prices, spotty service and concerns about a monopoly.

The pairing of the nation’s two biggest cable companies spurred a cascade of sarcastic tweets and satirical memes in which people likened the new entity to the killer Death Star battle station from “Star Wars” and the evil Eye of Sauron from “The Lord of the Rings.”

Some people recalled a “South Park” snippet in which character Eric Cartman and friends are tormented by cable employees before a logo curiously similar to Time Warner Cable’s own.

The jokes reflect a more serious sentiment among consumers.

J.D. Power said in September that in multiple surveys about pay TV service that it conducted during the previous year, Comcast and Time Warner Cable ranked below the industry average in every region of the country.

Time Warner Cable ranked dead last among providers in every region but the West.

The telecommunications industry as a whole places ninth out of 10, topping only utilities.

The acquisition means Comcast will serve more than 30 million TV and Internet subscribers.

The company said the deal will allow it to boost Internet speeds and reliability, spread its latest Internet-connected set-top boxes across more homes and help reduce its costs for TV programming.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said the combination will be “pro-consumer and pro-competitive.”

Comcast’s expected argument before antitrust regulators: Comcast and Time Warner Cable don’t directly compete with each other in any region. Therefore, the deal won’t reduce competition and should be approved.

But that lack of overlap – and absence of choice – is at the root of customer frustration, according to David VanAmburg, managing director of the America Customer Satisfaction Index.

In the ACSI’s annual survey of consumer sentiment toward 240 companies, Time Warner Cable as a TV provider ranked second to last, beating only the Long Island Power Authority.

As an Internet service provider, it came sixth from the bottom.

Comcast’s TV and Internet service ranked 233rd and 236th, respectively.