Verizon FiOS showed strong across a wide range of multi-play service bundles including TV, Internet and Phone, according to the results of a Consumer Reports telecom services survey released today. Midwest regional cable service provider WOW did likewise.
Verizon FiOS IPTV service rated higher than the major cable service providers in terms of TV picture, sound and channel selection, garnering Consumer Reports’ highest grade for Internet speed. But FiOS did have more complaints concerning bills for triple-play than most other telecompetitors. Subscribers also weren’t pleased that Verizon requires them to rent a receiver for every TV, something cable companies may not require.
Offering individual and triple-play service bundles across four Midwest states, WOW earned high marks for all three telecom services. Customers’ responses regarding WOW’s individual Internet, TV and phone services likewise put the company among the top providers, according to Consumer Reports.
Outside of Verizon FiOS and WOW, cable provider Bright House Networks, Cox and Cablevision/Optimum, as well as AT&T’s U-verse were rated next-best alternatives.
“With the very best providers so limited in availability, the leading options for many consumers will be either the cable provider where they live or satellite-TV service, paired with Internet and likely phone service from other providers,” said Paul Reynolds, Electronics Editor for Consumer Reports. “The best choice for you may depend in part on your particular cable company, since cable varied widely in satisfaction, depending on the provider.”
One-quarter of TV households worldwide will be subscribing to triple-play service bundles come 2016, according to a 2011 forecast from Digital TV Research.
Consumer Reports also outlines five ways consumers can get the best deals on the best triple-play bundles and individual Internet, TV and phone services. Here’s their advice:
- Get ready to bargain. While seven out of 10 readers with a triple play package didn’t try to bargain on their telecom bills, 90 percent of those who did got some accommodation. Price reductions led the list of concessions, with around 40 percent of bargainers reporting savings of up to $50 a month. Hagglers’ experiences also suggest that it can pay to let the provider know consumers are ready to drop some or all of its services
- Push back when rates rise. If a provider’s rates soar after a deal ends, push back. Consumer Reports recommends consumers use competition among the providers in their area, if available, as an advantage. However, be prepared for resistance from TV providers. Companies are increasingly keeping track of what promotions each customer has been given and may offer smaller discounts when asked for another break. According to Phillip Dampier, of the website StopTheCap.com, the key word is “cancel.” Schedule a disconnection date a week or two in the future for a better chance to be added to the telecom company’s disconnect list, which may result in the consumer being offered aggressive deals as a last-ditch effort from the telecom provider.
- Don’t overbuy on Internet. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), eight out of 10 consumers don’t know what speed they are getting from their Internet service providers. Light usage homes are typically characterized by one or two users at a time, with email activity and small file uploads. Light users may only need Internet speeds of up to 3 Mbps (megabits per second). Moderate usage is characterized by three simultaneous users at times that are known to stream video (sometimes in HD) and use Internet services such as iTunes and Vudu. Moderate users are advised to have Internet speeds between 6 and 12 Mbps. Consumer Reports recommends that heavy users have an Internet speed of at least 15 Mbps to meet the needs of high data demands and up to four users online at once- some even on tablets or smart phones. Consumer Reports also found that speeds don’t always live up to company claims and advises consumers to visit broadband.gov/qualitytest to independently gauge their Internet speeds.
- Look to phone for savings. More than half of Consumer Reports subscribers use Internet-based phone service—which includes phone service from cable companies—instead of a traditional landline. Ooma, Vonage and MagicJack are all VoIP (Voice over Internet protocol) services with their own unique pricing benefits. Consumer Reports cautions, however, that all Internet-based phone service comes at the cost of risking the loss of service—including emergency 911 calls–if power or broadband service fails. Researchers note, however, that consumers can get a backup battery for cable phone service — although that is not the case for Ooma, Vonage and MagicJack. With any of those options, a cell phone the only option in an emergency, provided it works at home.
- Downsize the TV service. Only about nine percent of Consumer Reports readers didn’t receive TV programming from a cable, satellite or phone-company provider. With the recession and online TV prominence, many cable and satellite TV providers have been pushed to offer economy TV services costing as low as $25-$35 for local channels and a bevy of basic channels. These packages might suffice, especially for those that combine a basic TV package with other online TV and streaming options. Additional tips that could save consumers anywhere from $6 to $20 a month include dropping the DVR and going back to free TV from an antenna, which receives over-the-air signals from ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, among others — all digital and mostly HD.