- In connection to the Comcast/Time Warner merger, Time Warner claimed it could not provide service quality reports because they revealed “trade secrets.”
- This claim was denied by the Records Access Officer of the New York State Department of Public Service after the consumer advocate organization requested the reports.
- New York’s Utility Project has launched a campaign to educate the public about the merger and facilitate informed consumer input.
Albany, New York (July 29, 2014) On Friday, the Records Access Officer of the New York State Department of Public Service denied a waiver requested by Time Warner Cable of New York claiming its telephone service quality reports contain “trade secrets.” The action was the direct result of New York’s Utility Project requests for the full reports under freedom of information laws. With a Comcast/Time Warner merger pending state and federal approval, the stakes are high for the companies and utility consumers.
In December 2013, telephone service quality reports began to be filed by Time Warner after an order from the PSC which denied Time Warner’s request to be excused from service quality reporting. Initially the reports were withheld and later were filed with extensive redactions, under claims that the full reports would unveil trade secrets. Friday’s ruling denied this request and orders Time Warner Cable of New York to provide full telephone service quality reports (yet to be provided by the company because they still have time to appeal the order).
New York’s Utility Project is an initiative of the Public Utility Law Project, an independent nonprofit organization. It advocates on behalf of residential energy and telecom consumers in the state of New York, with an emphasis on those with low and fixed incomes. Time Warner has 1.2 million telephone customers and operates in nearly all of New York’s 62 counties making it the state’s second largest telephone company. In New York City, Time Warner serves all of Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island, as well as the northwest corner of Brooklyn.
According to the Utility Project, the incomplete reports provided by Time Warner show the company has missed targets on several important telephone service quality metrics involving initial connection of service and repairs of lines out of service.
“Neither the information in the merger petition nor other publicly available information shows that the Comcast/Time Warner merger would bring net positive benefits to consumers in the state of New York,” says Gerald Norlander, executive director of New York’s Utility Project, referring to claims from Comcast that the merger will benefit consumers.
“In general, the national reputation of Comcast and Time Warner regarding service quality and customer satisfaction leaves much to be desired,” adds Norlander. “There are large numbers of public complaints from New York utility consumers about poor service quality provided by the two merging companies. Information related to this should be open to public scrutiny and steps should be made to correct any deficiencies because currently there is a risk of continued poor service or even worsening service if there is post-merger cost-cutting by Comcast.”
The New York State Public Service Commission has extended the date for the public to comment on the merger to Aug. 8. Although comments are preferred by that date, the PSC will continue to receive public comments until it reaches a decision, which is expected in early October. To date, more than 2,300 public comments have been posted, mostly urging rejection of the merger.
New York’s Utility Project has launched a “Speak Out” public information campaign on its website and via social media to provide information about the Comcast/Time Warner merger and to encourage customers to voice their opinions to the PSC.
New York’s Utility Project is an initiative of the Public Utility Law Project, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that has advocated for universal service, affordability, and customer protections for New York State utility consumers since 1981. New York’s Utility Project offers people ways to get help with utility problems and to speak out about utility issues that affect them and their communities. New York’s Utility Project builds upon the Public Utility Law Project’s history of protecting, empowering and representing New York’s low-income utility consumers. You can learn more at www.UtilityProject.org