No wonder so many people are cutting the cord

As consumers quit traditional cable-TV companies in droves, Consumer Reports has just ranked providers with the best TV viewing options -- and none is a traditional player.

Consumer Reports, a publication of Consumers Union, which tests product and services, also ranked bundled services that combine TV, internet and phone, as well as internet providers. Here again, the major cable companies didn't head the list. Legacy cable operations, such as Comcast (CMCSA) and Charter Communications (CHTR), which just bought Time Warner Cable, generally are the chief providers of internet access.

In addition, polls by the publication showed high public dissatisfaction with internet providers' unauthorized use of their browsing data and efforts to limit customers' access to content.

Dismay over the cable giants' practices, as well as their prices, have spurred an exodus of customers. Almost 800,000 Americans dropped their traditional cable package in the year's first three months, according to research firm Moffett-Nathanson. 

In Consumers Reports' survey of companies offering the best viewing options -- in terms of value, reliability and channel selection -- the champ is EPB Fiber, a service offered by a Tennessee electrical utility owned by the city of Chattanooga. 

No. 2 is Google Fiber, a division of colossus and Google parent Alphabet (GOOG). Verizon Fiber, a part of telecom behemoth Verizon Communications (VZ), that delivers access over its fiber-optic network known as Fios, is seventh, and Charter is 13th.

Similarly, Bright House, recently bought by Charter, is the leader for bundled services. And Google Fiber leads the list for internet providers. 

Consumer Reports polling also finds that 80 percent of respondents thought internet providers should need to get permission from customers to share their data. And 60 percent contended that the providers should be barred from selling or sharing it at all. 

Under rules that the Obama administration enacted, the companies must ask consumers' permission to share their data. But the GOP-led Congress and the Trump administration have squelched those restrictions.

By the same token, those surveyed were opposed to the Federal Communications Commission's plan to overturn its previous practice of requiring net neutrality -- a policy that forbids internet providers from blocking a rival service, say movie streaming, or at least slowing down the competitor's speed of delivery. Under the FCC's new leadership, the previous 2015 policy would be done away with.

In the poll, 67 percent of respondents said providers shouldn't be able to block a rival, and 62 percent said the same about slowing it down.

  • Larry Light

    Larry Light is a veteran financial editor and reporter who has worked for the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, Money, AdviceIQ and Newsday.