The article below appeared in the June 9 edition of the Boston Sunday Globe. Verizon continues to receive positive national attention for the high quality of its FiOS services.
Shop around to save on phone, cable, and Internet
Looking beyond the bundle
June 09, 2013
Many of us are one-stop shoppers when it comes to home telecom, opting for a “triple play,” the industry term for a discounted bundle of TV, Internet, and phone service.
The majority of Consumer Reports readers who bundled are happy with that arrangement, according to a new survey by Consumer Reports National Research Center. Three of four surveyed said they would definitely or probably buy that bundle of services again.
Deep discounting helps explain the bullishness about bundling. You can get big savings by bundling three services with one provider. You can get more discounts by adding cellphone service. Verizon and AT&T offer such “quad plays.”
Such breaks are welcome relief from the upward climb of telecommunications rates, driven in part by the rising costs of TV programming. Industry analysts forecast continued increases over the next few years.
This report should embolden you to tackle your telecom costs head-on. Consumer Reports’ ratings of bundles from 14 companies, along with individual phone, TV, and Internet services from many more, show that most people have at least one decent choice in telecom.
Here are key findings from Consumer Reports’ survey, along with advice on how to use the info to get better or cheaper telecom service:
Verizon’s fiber service satisfies. Among major carriers, the highest proportion of subscribers who said they would pick “triple play” again had bundles with FiOS, Verizon’s fiber-optic-based TV, digital-landline phone, and high-speed Internet service. “Quad play” customers who added Verizon cellphone service to the bundle were even more enthusiastic. FiOS received standout scores for its broadband speed and reliability, TV picture and reliability, and even phone call quality and reliability.
Ooma is a top phone option. Ooma, which provides VoIP service (the same technology used by cable and fiber companies), was one of the top-rated phone services of any type in the survey. It requires a $180 device (often discounted to $150) that connects to your broadband service and a regular phone. There’s no charge for unlimited local calls and 5,000 minutes a month of domestic long distance (though you have to pay a few dollars a month in taxes), and international rates are very low.
Verizon and satellite are TV standouts. Verizon FiOS TV and DirecTV’s satellite service had higher ratings than most other providers for picture and sound quality, channel selection, and reliability. Satellite rival Dish Network also fared well with survey respondents, as did a few (mostly smaller) cable companies.
Try to bundle your cellphone, too. Bringing your cellphone into your telecom bundle, if it’s an option, is as close to a no-brainer as you can get in the complex world of telecom savings.
For example, AT&T gives you $5 a month off your wireless bill for two years if you sign up for U-verse services for one year and will discount U-verse services as well. AT&T’s U-verse Choice bundles offer savings to new customers who sign up for any combination of wireless, TV, landline, and Internet.
Too few people bargain. The experiences of Consumer Reports’ survey respondents should empower you to bargain for lower rates.
Only 1 in 3 survey respondents with a triple or quad play negotiated with their carrier. But many of those who did got a reduction in their monthly bill, fees waived, or an upgrade in service. About 44 percent of bargainers reported savings of up to $50 a month, and 7 percent chopped more than $50 off their monthly bill.
Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.