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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Consumer Reports: Fiber-Optic Providers Are Leading Choices for Internet, TV, Phone Service

Consumers looking to cut costs without sacrificing satisfaction for Internet, television, and telephone service should consider bundling with Verizon FiOS or AT&T U-verse. In Consumer Reports' latest survey of major telecom providers and bundled services, featured in the February issue, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse, whose networks are fiber-optic based, were the most consistently satisfying providers for their Internet, television, and telephone services.

Because Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse are not available everywhere, many consumers must consider other options for Internet, phone and TV services. The Consumer Reports article also includes ratings of these three services, which are typically bundled, from various providers.

In areas where telco-delivered service is not available, a highly-rated cable company is the next-best choice for many households. Consumers may not have an option when choosing a cable provider because a majority of homes only have one cable company available in their area. According to Consumer Reports' survey, better cable companies include Cox, Cablevision and the smaller Bright House and Wow, which are fine alternatives to fiber-optic service providers for all three services in areas that they are available and also offer Internet and telephone services.

If television service is a priority and fiber-optic service isn't available, satellite service may be a fine option. Consumer Reports suggests opting for a bundle that includes DirecTV. It scored higher than all the major cable companies and Dish Network, the other major provider of satellite service, for TV picture, sound and channel selection. It is also offered in hybrid bundles along with DSL Internet and landline phone service from some telephone providers.

Bundling Prices Decline

Intense competition for cable and satellite customers between AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS high-speed fiber providers has driven down rates for Internet, phone and TV service and is likely the reason that companies allow these savings to continue past the promotional period. In the past year, bundles of the three services have dropped in price by up to 20 percent, to as low as $80 a month.

Bundling makes sense for many households, especially for those consumers who are served by one of the fiber carriers or one of the better cable companies. Consumer Reports' latest survey found that subscribers were very satisfied with Internet, phone and TV from the best telecom providers. However, bundling doesn't come without some problems. The survey revealed a high incidence of complaints about billing, and fees with some providers' triple-play packages. Despite its high marks overall, Verizon FiOS was below average for customer service to its triple-play customers. Cable companies that bundle services had fewer customer-service problems overall.

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