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Does bundling Internet, cable save cash?

January 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
You've likely seen the offers to get phone, Internet and cable from the same company. Competition is fierce as companies vie for your telecom dollars. Really low introductory rates and incentives like free TVs are all part of the push to get your triple play business. But will bundling really save you money?Many of you bought a new high definition TV over the holidays, and now you need to upgrade your cable or satellite service. That's when you find out about the bundle -- subscribing to TV, Internet and phone at the same time with the same company. Cable and satellite companies say doing that will save you money, and sometimes it can.

David Berliner had a very practical reason for bundling his TV, phone, and Internet.

"I didn't want to have to deal with three bills," said David.

He also liked the $99 promotional package Verizon FiOS offered him.

Consumer Reports just checked to see if it pays to bundle.

"If your telecom and TV needs are simple -- say you don't make a lot of long-distance calls and you get only basic cable, bundling may not pay off," said Paul Reynolds of Consumer Reports. "But we found for typical homes it can save you hundreds of dollars a year."

You have to compare offers carefully. Reynolds says you have to be on your toes so you don't end up paying more than you bargained for.

"Remember you are getting a bundled price, and if you drop one of the services, the rates may rise for the services you're still receiving," said Reynolds.

So before bundling your phone, TV, and Internet, here are important questions to ask:

  • Are there installation or activation fees?
  • What will the rate be after the promotion ends?
  • Is there a penalty fee if I decide to unbundle?

And who should you go with? A just-published survey of Consumer Reports subscribers puts Verizon FiOS at the top of the list for user satisfaction, but it may not be available in your area. What then?

"If you're happy with one service from your provider, our survey suggests that's a pretty good indicator you'll be satisfied with the other bundled services," said Reynolds.

And while David is happy with his bundled services, he does have a caution.

"Now after a year I still remain pretty satisfied with it," said David. "But I would warn anybody to watch the bill because it can just go up and up and up."

There are a couple of ways to keep your bill from going up (and up). When your promotional offer ends, make sure you cancel any services you don't want. And don't be afraid to negotiate. Letting a company know politely that you're prepared to take your business elsewhere can be a very effective negotiating tool. Of course, you have to be ready to do just that.

In previous surveys, phone service from cable companies and satellite services have been less than desirable, so keep that in mind.


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