Now you can try Verizon FiOS with no termination fee

Consumer Reports News: June 22, 2010 12:36 PM

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Have you been hankering to try Verizon's fiber-optic FiOS TV and Internet services but hesitant to commit for a year or two? Then check this out. Verizon is now offering new customers a month-to-month payment plan—with no early-termination fees and a 30-day free trial. (Existing contracts remain in effect.) The triple play (which includes landline phone service) starts at $99 a month, plus taxes, fees, and equipment rental charges.

That's good news, especially since Verizon raised its termination fees to $360 in January, a big deterrent to customers who don't want to be locked into a service they might not like. That might have dissuaded some folks from signing on. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company enrolled half as many new FiOS TV subscribers during the first quarter of this year compared to 2009. Yahoo News notes that the company is still a pipsqueak compared to the cable TV industry; there are now 3 million FiOS customers, compared to nearly 62 million subscribers for cable services collectively.

But it's also a gamble for Verizon. It reportedly costs $1,350 to install the service, an elaborate process that can take about a half day according to folks I know who've gotten FiOS. The technician has to mount a backpack-sized box to the exterior of your home, and sometimes bury a cable running to the box, plus install another box inside.

Evidently the trial program Verizon ran in Florida and Pennsylvania earlier this year convinced them that enough customers will stick with FiOS to make this worthwhile. Our surveys indicate that consumers do think well of their services. Verizon's FiOS fiber-optic service (like AT&T's U-Verse offering) has done very well in our customer satisfaction surveys, scoring higher than the major cable companies for TV picture, sound, and channel selection. It was also rated highly for Internet and phone service. (Our Ratings of bundled TV, Internet and phone services are availble to online subscribers only.) But Verizon FiOS had more complaints than average about billing and fees. (Our survey was conducted in the spring of 2009.)

If you decide to check out FiOS, read the contract's fine print carefully to make sure you know the pros and cons of the various options. The month-to-month plan gives you a price guarantee for one year; the two-year contract obviously gives you a price lock for twice as long—but you'll pay dearly to exit the contract. And if you're comparing the price to your current cable or satellite plan, be sure to factor in taxes and fees for renting boxes for all your TVs. Keep in mind that you'll also have the construction changes to your home to contend with.

Does this tempt you to try out FiOS? Or if you have the service now, are you glad you made the switch? Tell us about it.

—Eileen McCooey

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