Save a bundle

Internet, phone, and TV packages can pay off, but some have snags

Illustration of TV, phone and internet all connected
Illustration by Doug Ross

If hard economic times have you scrambling to trim expenses, relief might be as close as your Internet, phone, and television services.

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 combined into bundled services. Bundles of the three services have dropped in price by up to 20 percent in the last year, to as low as $80 a month.

Such rates are ostensibly good only for the first year or two of service. But providers are increasingly reluctant to raise rates after the promotional period, at least in some of the more competitive markets, says Doug Williams, a telecommunications analyst with Forrester Research.

A new survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center reveals that subscribers were very satisfied with Internet, phone, and TV from the best telecom providers. Yet it also found some problems with bundled services, including a high incidence of complaints about billing, support, and fees with some providers' triple-play packages.

On the whole, though, we think bundling makes sense for many households, especially if you're served by one of the fiber carriers or one of the better cable companies. Averaging their reader scores for Internet, phone, and TV, Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse were the most consistently satisfying providers—even though Verizon was below average for customer service to its triple-play customers.

Posted: January 2009 — Consumer Reports Magazine issue: February 2009