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UW Expert: Huge Telecom Merger Will Cost Hundreds of Wisconsin Jobs

Photo: A proposed merger of cable TV giants Charter Communications and Time-Warner Cable could result in hundreds of job losses in Wisconsin, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison telecommunications expert. Barry Orton says consolidation of the companies would mean higher cable rates for Wisconsinites and hundreds of jobs lost as the former competitors would combine services. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: A proposed merger of cable TV giants Charter Communications and Time-Warner Cable could result in hundreds of job losses in Wisconsin, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison telecommunications expert. Barry Orton says consolidation of the companies would mean higher cable rates for Wisconsinites and hundreds of jobs lost as the former competitors would combine services. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
June 3, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - In a deal which would affect millions of Wisconsinites and one in every six American households, Charter Communications is proposing an acquisition of Time-Warner Cable. According to nationally recognized telecommunications expert Barry Orton, this is bad news for consumers.

While the companies involved say it will mean rates will be lower, Orton said that has never happened, and in fact the additional debt taken on by the new company probably will cause cable TV rates to rise even faster.

Orton, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor, said there will have to be downsizing, too.

"Time-Warner has a very big customer service center, a phone center in Appleton, and a smaller one in Milwaukee, and Charter has a very big one in Fond du Lac and a smaller one in Madison," he said. "They're not going to need all four of those going forward."

Orton said the two companies involved have very poor ratings for customer satisfaction. Charter has promised that customers will get better broadband service if the acquisition goes forward.

The combined companies probably would shed hundreds of jobs in Wisconsin, Orton said, in addition to closing at least two regional facilities.

"Similarly, they don't need two state directors, they don't need two heads of marketing, they don't need two accounting staffs, they don't need all that kind of middle-management stuff duplicated twice in one state," he said. "So there'll be significant - I would say in the hundreds of - job losses."

Several months ago, the Federal Communications Commission blocked Comcast's bid to buy out Time-Warner. Orton said he is not sure this deal between Charter and Time-Warner will go through, but added that it probably will happen.

"Right now the Obama administration has nothing to lose by acting strong on some things," he said, "and so it's a possibility that it's turned down. I think it should be turned down. I think the odds are probably 60-40 that it isn't."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI