By Ian Bush

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) — Comcast and Time Warner Cable executives were on Capitol Hill today, arguing the benefits of their proposed merger.

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They say those benefits will include better technology and increased competition.  But several members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee were skeptical.

“Will consumers have higher cable bills?  Will they have more or less content choices?” US Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wondered aloud today during hearings into the megamerger.

But Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sounded like he’s already made up his mind.

“I believe this deal will result in fewer choices, higher prices, and even worse service,” Franken said.

As for the prices that customers will pay, Comcast executive vice president David Cohen said that while there’s nothing in the merger itself that would cause rates to rise, “I have a nasty little habit of telling the truth, and when I was asked, ‘Are people’s cable bills going to go down?’ I said, ‘I can’t make that commitment.’ ”

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Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) pushed Cohen on preserving Philadelphia-area jobs.

(Coons:)  “Are there any assurances you can give us today?”

(Cohen:)  “Most of our jobs are the customer-facing jobs of technicians in call centers and local management of our systems, and we don’t anticipate any reductions in those jobs.”

If you’re of the mind that Comcast customer service leaves much to be desired, the company is with you.

“It bothers us that we have so much trouble delivering a really high quality service level to our customers on a consistent basis,” Cohen said. “It is not something that we’re ignoring.  It is not something that we’re not serious about.”


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