If you think anything will change after Comcast Corp. buys Time Warner Cable Inc. and sells off subscribers to Charter Communications Inc., consider this: All three companies earned low customer satisfaction scores in the latest Consumer Reports National Research Center survey.
"Out of 17 providers of TV service, Charter, Comcast and Time Warner ranked 14th, 15th and 16th, respectively," David Butler, deputy director of Consumers Union, said in an email. The companies' scores were mediocre on Internet service as well, he said.
Charter's bid to buy Time Warner Cable fell short in February, but now Comcast _ which won that bidding war with an offer of $45.2 billion _ plans to shed 3.9 million subscribers in an attempt to appease regulators and lawmakers concerned about its massive size.
Of those, 1.4 million nationwide will move to Charter.
If the deal goes through, some hassles are likely for current Time Warner Cable subscribers. For example, Barry Orton, a University of Wisconsin-Madison telecommunications professor, said it is likely that those who use "rr.com" email addresses provided by Time Warner eventually would have to switch to "charter.net" addresses.
"It's a real pain to switch," Orton said. "So they're going to be aware of that. They're probably going to have to keep the 'rr' for some period of time, but I suspect sooner or later they are going to have to transition that."
Time Warner Cable has shifted customers from rr.com addresses to twc.com email addresses even though both brands are owned by the same company. Comcast has required customers of some of the cable companies it has purchased over the years to switch email addresses, though the company created tools to help customers make the transition.
As for which company provides the best prices, comparisons are nearly impossible. You can get different prices if you bundle services such as TV, phone and Internet, or if you have discount codes through your employer or if you live in an area with more competition.
According to the Television Bureau of Advertising, just 10.3 percent of homes nationwide are watching free over-the-air television.
(Paul Gores, Thomas Content, Joe Taschler, Sharif Durhams and Gitte Laasby of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.)