Does Bundling TV, Phone and Internet Make Sense?

January 22, 2010

old fashioned TVBy Terry Smiljanich:

As we’ve all grown more dependent upon our ever-expanding telecommunication services, we’ve become fertile targets for the companies selling these services.  They’re constantly competing for our business and  trying to entice us with attractive offers to switch to them.

So, when it comes to phone, internet and cable TV service how do you get the best deal?  Does it make sense to bundle your services as the big telecom companies want us to do? And if so, which ones are the best?

A recent article in Consumer Reports helps answer these questions. The entity surveyed 69,000 readers of its monthly Report to find out what cost savings were available with bundled services, and what companies provided the best combined services.

To Bundle or Not to Bundle?

Companies such as Verizon and AT&T offer cost savings to consumers who switch to them for “bundled” services, receiving TV, cell phone and internet coverage in one package. Not all companies offer such bundled services, and those that do often have difficulty providing adequate support services, giving rise to billing issues and uncoordinated support among the three signals.

Consumer Reports concluded that despite such drawbacks, choosing a bundled package makes sense, because the prices are more attractive.

Negotiate the Terms

It also pays, as it turns out, to bargain with your potential provider over matters such as monthly price and contract terms which are negotiable. The organization even provides a “script” to follow when dealing with a sales representative, usually resulting in a better final offer.

You should make every effort to avoid getting bound by a contract (e.g., a one year contract with early termination fees). DirecTV charges up to $480 for an early termination fee, a penalty that with some persistence on your part, you can get the company to waive by avoiding a contract term.

At first, the company will insist on such terms, but by persisting and moving up the chain of authority, you can often avoid being caught in a contractual web.

Who’s Best?

As for ratings, Consumer Reports looked at all three forms of telecommuncation signals – cable, fiber optic and satellite. Among cable providers, Wow, Bright House Networks and Insight came out on top. For homes equipped to receive fiber optic signals, Verizon and AT&T U-verse got the best ratings. DirecTV won the satellite signal competition.

So it makes sense to see whether your area provides opportunities to bundle your services. Figure out what you need (fewer channels, more speed?) and then don’t take the first offer you’re given. These companies want your services and are willing to offer better bargains, especially if you tell them you have other serious choices.