Consumer Reports: Fiber-optic providers are triple-play choice

JANUARY 6, 2009 -- 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, says Consumer Reports, the media outlet for consumer advocate Consumer Union.

JANUARY 6, 2009 -- 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, says Consumer Reports, the media outlet for consumer advocate Consumer Union.

In the publication's 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 editors say. The 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, according to Consumer Reports. 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 providers 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, the magazine asserts.

If television service is a priority and fiber-optic service isn't available, satellite service may also be a "fine option," say the editors.

The publication notes that intense competition for cable and satellite customers between AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS high-speed fiber providers has driven down rates for triple-play services 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, the magazine reports.

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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