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Consumer Reports rates best telecom services

May 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
When it comes to your TV, Internet, and home-phone services, fiber optics have a lot to offer.

Consumer Reports conducts an annual survey on which companies deliver the best phone, Internet and TV services.

Shalini Bhargava is just getting up to speed on the new all-fiber network she's had installed in her home. It will deliver all of her telecom services: TV, Internet and phone.

"I feel good then, if that is the new technology and that is where things are moving. It feels good," said Bhargava.

She's not alone. In a survey of some 70,000 readers by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, some of the highest levels of satisfaction were reported by people who got their telecom services from Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse, the two phone-company services using fiber optics.

"Both companies scored equally high in satisfaction, but Verizon FiOS outscored AT&T U-verse on performance factors like Internet speed, call quality, and reliability across all three services," said Consumer Reports Senior Associate Rosalind Tordesillas.

The fact that Verizon FiOS runs fiber cables right to the house may help give it the edge.

AT&T U-verse uses fiber-optic lines up to a neighborhood station, then copper cabling the rest of the way.

"If you don't have fiber all the way to the home, it's like funneling traffic from an interstate highway to a local road. Speed and capacity can suffer," said Tordesillas.

If you're looking to get your telecom services through a cable company, Consumer Reports says be aware: most major cable providers got just "ho-hum" ratings in its survey.

If great television service is paramount and you can't get either FiOS or U-verse, Consumer Reports says you should consider satellite television. DISH and DIRECTV scored above-average for sound, channel selection and picture.

Cable, satellite, and phone-company providers are hot for your business these days, so Consumer Reports says it can pay to bargain for discounts, equipment fee waivers and even free programming.

You might want to check the offers on the Internet first. Often those are the best deals. But don't forget to read the fine print because most offers are for a limited time only.