With carriers offering introductory discounts as much as half off, it's little wonder why three-quarters of those who bought a triple- or quad-play telecom package (cable, Internet, home phone, cell phone) told Consumer Reports that they would definitely or probably purchase that same bundle of services again. Those were the findings of the latest subscriber survey on telecom providers from the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
Consumer Reports recently released its report on telecom services, based on the experiences of 84,000 Consumer Reports readers. The report features tips and advice to help consumers save money on their telecom services and select the best providers. (The report is available through the Consumer Reports website.)
"Our report revealed that although rates for telecom services have been trending upward, there are proven ways to save for consumers who act boldly and tackle these costs head-on," said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports. "Also, our 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."
Among the major carriers, the highest proportion of subscribers who said they'd "triple-play" again had bundles with Fios, Verizon's fiber-optic-based TV, digital-landline phone, and high-speed Internet service. Fios received standout scores for its broadband speed and reliability, TV picture and reliability, and even phone call quality and reliability.
For consumers in a handful of Midwestern cities, top-rated provider WOW merits serious consideration. It received high marks for its bundled telecom service, especially for billing and support coordination.
Among the Consumer Reports survey's findings was that too few people bargain for lower rates and could be missing out on big savings. Only one in three survey respondents with a triple or quad play negotiated with their carrier, and many of them 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.
Consumers who are lucky enough to have two competitors offering triple-play packages in their neighborhood can play them against each other. Among readers who had changed TV providers in the previous six months, 18 percent were offered new savings of $20 or more a month by their old provider if they didn't switch to a new company or if they had switched but were open to coming back.
Not opting for higher speed, more expensive Internet upgrades that many ISP's are now pitching is another way consumers can save money. Cablevision's Optimum service, for instance, offers 50-megabits-per-second (Mbps) downloads with Boost Plus, a $15-a-month upgrade to its regular Internet speeds, which are "up to 15 Mbps," according to the company. But that download speed should be all the typical household needs, even if multiple users are simultaneously doing bandwidth-hungry tasks.
The Consumer Reports telecom services report features Ratings of bundles from 14 companies, along with individual phone, TV, and Internet services from several more providers. The full report can be found in the May issue of Consumer Reports, and online at ConsumerReports.org.
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