No sooner had the door shut on the Comcast deal last Thursday than reports emerged that Charter Communications, the regional cable operator controlled by the billionaire John C. Malone, was exploring a new bid for Time Warner Cable, its second in less than two years.
Some predict consumers will lose no matter who buys whom.
"If you're selling consumers something they can't live without, and you're subject to neither oversight nor competition, consumers aren't going to be happy," said Susan P. Crawford, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard.
The plight of Time Warner Cable customers showcases the frustration. It is why despite the overpowering opposition to the Comcast deal from consumer and corporate groups, lawmakers and regulators, there were also disappointed sighs from people like Candice Kilpatrick of Brooklyn after the proposed merger collapsed.
Read MoreHow the Comcast/Time Warner Cable deal fell apart
Ms. Kilpatrick said her neighborhood had no cable and broadband service provider other than Time Warner Cable and that its service was "so terrible" that she downgraded her package to just Internet, which she needed for her job and which she still found slow and expensive. (The quality of her Internet service was even an issue in a relationship, she said. "A guy I was dating never wanted to come over because he couldn't stream.")
Comcast is no model of customer service either, scoring just above Time Warner Cable on those customer service surveys, but Ms. Kilpatrick said she had hoped the combined company would somehow provide more "juice."
"I had some hope that the Comcast merger would have an increase in quality of service," she said, "but I guess I'm just going to keep living in the 1990s of Internet and cable service with TWC."
Some of the frustration with big, expensive cable television packages has helped to fuel the trend of cord-cutting and increasing competition from different services, with newcomers like Apple TV, Hulu and Amazon, and single-channel offerings like HBO Go. Still, users need strong Wi-Fi and Internet access, pressuring Time Warner Cable, Verizon and others to improve the delivery of streaming services.
Analysts say that the ill-fated Comcast deal could lay the groundwork for significant improvements in customer service and satisfaction at Time Warner Cable.
The company spent the last year preparing its network to be turned over to Comcast in the best shape possible. Today, said Richard Greenfield, a media and technology analyst at BTIG: "Broadband speeds are higher. Customer service has improved. I think they've gone out of their way to invest in their consumer experience to position for if the deal didn't happen they could simply move forward."
Read MoreComcast's Roberts: TWC deal off, 'no looking back'
In an interview, Robert D. Marcus, the chief executive of Time Warner Cable, listed improvements to customer service he said the company began in the last year. They include introducing TWC Maxx — which has significantly faster Internet speeds (up to six times faster in some cases), "enhanced DVR" with more storage and more on-demand video choices — to roughly 10 markets, including New York and Los Angeles, which he called a "tremendous improvement of customer service across the board."