Bundle Battles: The Best Package for Cable, Voice, Internet and More

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Bundling services through one provider can be a great way to save money – if you know what to look for.


Jul. 29, 2008 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Double Plays, Triple Plays, and Quadruple Plays are not new concepts. Ever since service providers began offering more than one service the marketing departments have blitzed consumers with packaged services promising bill-saving deals. Comparing and contrasting every provider and every service can be an exhausting task, though in reality most consumers will have one or maybe two of the big cable companies to choose from, one of AT&T’s options if you’re lucky, and FiOS if you are really lucky.

Some words of advice: ask questions. This author entered into a bundled service deal with one of the major cable companies, only to be hit six months later with a bill that had me wondering if my car payments and cable bill got switched. Come to find out the initial rate was a six-month promotional one. Funny how this was never made clear to me.

Consumers will also want to know if there are any contractual obligations to stay a subscriber for a certain amount of time. When I adjusted my Double Play bundle with the aforementioned provider to drop one service but add another, my next bill featured a $150 cancellation fee for the dropped service. Unbeknownst to me, I was allegedly tied into a 2-year contract for that service. I fought it, and it turned out my handy visiting contractor never had me sign the contract when he came to install the new service. Lucky me.

Installation and equipment rental fees are also two frequently overlooked details. The process of hooking a home up to Verizon’s FiOS service, for example, can be somewhat invasive and elaborate. Find out how long installation will take, how much it will cost (free installation has been the norm for FiOS as it is still relatively new, but this may change as demand for service increases), and how much of the necessary equipment (modem, set-top boxes, etc.) comes with a monthly fee. Try haggling. If a provider is desperate for customers, they may allow some flexibility to their salespeople. You never know ‘til you try.

With regards to service, this will vary by provider. There is TV, phone (traditional landline or VoIP), internet, and wireless cell phone service. Some providers have deals with satellite companies like DirecTV and Dish Network and offer those TV services as part of a bundle. For each service there can be numerous tiers, which can affect the bottom line on that monthly bill, e.g. internet service is The beauty of the bundle is in the ability to mix and match services and their respective tiers to meet a household’s needs.

Disclaimer: The tables featured include rates taken either from a provider’s website or from a provider’s salesperson. Rates for any given provider may vary from state to state, and sometimes even within a state.

Comcast
These Comcast bundle rates were taken from their website, and apply as an online offer only. Comcast offers Digital Voice, Digital television, and a few different Internet speeds. (Internet speeds listed are download speeds). There website doesn’t do a great job of allowing customization, and detailed information on package specifics is fairly hard to come by. Still, their rates are reasonable, their Internet speeds are adequate, and their digital phone service is straightforward, including unlimited local and long distance. In a new promotion, Comcast is offerering a Nintendo Wii to new Triple Play customers who sign on for two years.

Bundle TV Internet Phone Cost
  Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3 768 Kbps 6 Mbps 8 Mbps    
TV & Phone X           X $66
TV & Internet X       X     $66
Starter X       X   X $99
Preferred Plus   X     X   X $129
Premier     X   X   X $159

Charter
Off all the service providers, Charter may have had the easiest website to use to customize one’s bundle. They take potential consumers along three easy steps – cable, Internet, and phone – and explain the different tiers for each service as well as the additional cost per month for selecting a better package. Costs per month below are promotional costs – the costs for the first three bundles are for the first 6 months, and the last bundle cost is for the first 12 months.

Bundles listed below include the “default” service tiers, i.e. the basic digital package for TV (100+ channels, On-Demand, etc.), the standard Internet service (5Mbps download speed), and an unlimited nationwide calling plan for the phone service. Upgrades for TV include a “Big” and “Biggest” tier, with the latter bring HBO, Starz, Music Channels, and a few other options. One can also add a DVR ($20/month) and HD ($18/month) or both ($28/month). The “Plus” Internet tier doubles the speed (10Mbps download) for a mere $5 more a month. Anyone should see the value in that upgrade.

For the “Cable, Internet, and Phone 2” bundle, we selected the Biggest TV package, added the DVR/HD combo option, and chose the “Plus” Internet speeds. We also added a Networking gateway option for the home to connect 5 computers (4 of them wirelessly) for $9.99/month. We skipped the phone upgrade option, which adds 450 worldwide minutes to the plan. Notice the increase in the bottom line. And that’s still only a 12-month promotional rate.

Bundle TV Internet Phone Cost
  Digital Big Biggest Basic Plus    
Cable & Phone X       X X $69.98
Cable & Internet X     X     $69.98
Internet & Phone       X   X $59.98
Cable, Internet & Phone X     X   X $99.97
Cable, Internet & Phone     X   X X $172.96

Verizon FiOS
Verizon’s FiOS service continues to expand in availability across the country. Faster internet speeds and fiber optic reliability brings a slightly higher monthly bill, but the anticipation for service has most consumers quick to make the install call as soon as able.

Rates retrieved apply to the Virginia Beach, VA, area. Internet service is for 10Mbps/2Mbps (download/upload); the FiOS TV Premier package includes 200 digital channels (44 HD channels), a dual tuner DVR, and an extensive On Demand library.

Bundle TV Internet Phone Wireless Cost
Double Freedom   X X   $79.99
Triple Freedom X X X   $114.99
Ultimate Freedom X X X X $154.99

Cox Communications
For Cox Communications we used a San Diego, CA, address, and selected a few of the more attractive bundle offers. Cox’s website did a nice job detailing the many ways a customer could package together a bundle; unfortunately their customer service wasn’t quite as helpful with the “hypothetical” customer call. Apparently they don’t have time for inquiring minds – they just want sign-ups.

Internet speeds listed are download speeds. Programming package specifics for Cox TV services can be found on their website. The number indicates the number of TV packages included in the bundle.

Bundle TV Internet Phone Cost
  Standard Cable Digital 3 Digital 4 1.5 Mbps 7 Mbps Primary Line Only Connection Unlimited Plus  
Unlimited Bundle X   X   X   X $66
Cable & Internet X X     X     $66
Cable & Internet 2 X       X     $99
Internet & Phone         X X   $129
Cable & Phone X X       X   $159

Time Warner
Time Warner’s online bundle information was straight-forward and easy to understand. They break their bundles into clever names, like Surf & Chat for Internet and Phone, or View & Surf for TV and Internet. All the bundles that include TV come with 1 Digital Pak, with the exception of the “Everything” bundle, which has 4 Digital Paks. Bundled internet service brings consumers Time Warner’s “Road Runner Standard” service (10Mbps/1Mbps), and the Phone plan is their Nationwide Unlimited.

Bundle TV Internet Phone Cost
Surf & Chat   X X $89.99
View & Chat X   X $89.99
View & Surf X X   $89.99
Value X X X $124.99
Everything X X X $134.99

AT&T
Although AT&T’s U-verse IPTV service is available in select states across the country, they aren’t advertising bundles that include the service. Instead, their TV service comes courtesy of a partnership with Dish Network. The “DishDVR” TV service included in AT&T’s bundles comes with over 100 channels and 2-room DVR service. Their bundled Internet offering features the AT&T High Speed Internet Basic or Pro package (768Kbps/384Kbps and 3Mbps/512Kbps, respectively). Phone service is for the “All Distance Online Select,” which includes unlimited local and long distance calls inside the US. The wireless end of the Quad Pack brings AT&T’s “Nation 450 with Rollover” plan, with unlimited mobile-to-mobile, 450 anytime minutes and 5000 night and weekend minutes.

The website makes it very easy to plug in your zip code and find out which services and bundle plans are available in your area. The website also allows consumers to mix and match plan specifics within each service to see how, say, a faster internet plan for the Triple Pak with effect the bottom line.

Bundle TV Internet Phone Wireless Cost
    Basic Pro      
Double Pack     X X   $65
Triple Pack   X   X X $99.94
Quad Pack X   X X X $149.98

Qwest
Like AT&T, Qwest’s Internet service is DSL, and they, too, have partnered with a satellite company (DirecTV) to bring digital TV into their bundle. They have a functional website with the ability to easily add or subtract services from the bundle and quickly see the changes to the bottom line. We used a Phoenix, Arizona address for rate information.

Qwest’s DSL internet speeds are pretty slow (512Kbps download), and in order to get unlimited long distance one has to tack on $20/month to one of Qwest’s home phone plans, which range from $13.18 (for the basic plan with no features) to $42.99 (for 2 lines and 10 features). For the table below we chose the $25.99/month “Qwest Choice Home” plan and added the $20/month unlimited long distance plan. The wireless option adds $39.99 to the monthly bill and comes with a free Sanyo S1 phone and a 500-minute calling plan.

Options under the TV side of things are plenty – we chose DirecTV’s “DirecTV Plus HD DVR plan” for the Quad Bundle 2, and the more basic Choice plan for the other bundles that include Cable. Strangely enough, one cannot choose a “Cable & Internet” bundle option – apparently you MUST subscribe to Qwest’s phone service.

Bundle TV Internet Phone Phone Cost
  Choice Plus HD DVR        
Internet & Phone     X X   $67.98
Cable & Phone X     X   $75.98
Triple Bundle X   X X   $97.97
Quad Bundle X   X X X $120.96
Quad Bundle 2   X X X X $135.96



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