Product Reviews

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What's behind our telecom services Ratings?

The Consumer Reports National Research Center comprises highly trained social scientists, including 9 Ph.D.s, using state-of-the-art techniques to survey more than 1 million consumers each year about products, services, health care and consumer issues.
We look for:
  • Reader score
    A score of 100 means all respondents were completely satisfied, on average; 80 would mean very satisfied; 60, somewhat satisfied; 40, somewhat dissatisfied.
  • Value
    Rating reflects value for the money.
  • Customer service
    Rating reflects non-technical customer service such as billing questions and account management.

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Telecom services buying guide

Home telephone, cable television, and Internet started as separate services, but have evolved over the past two decades into a "triple play" of technologies that are often bundled together by providers. That evolution has also blurred the distinction between providers that historically were telephone companies or cable companies, and forced overlap among the functions of the services. As a result, you can now buy television from your phone company, telephone service from your cable company, and even Internet service from a satellite television company. Or you can buy Internet service from any one of these types of providers and use third-party VoIP and streaming video services to replicate the home phone and much of the entertainment content you expect from a triple-play bundle.

It can become confusing in a hurry. Telecom companies use package pricing to encourage consumers to buy bundles of all three services. Remove one element of the triple play, and the price of the other services can go up. Likewise, TV channels are bundled into channel packages that can range from low-cost basic cable (which combines local broadcast channels with a few select cable channels) to pricey packages with hundreds of channels, including premium channels such as HBO and Showtime.

And telecom customers don't seem to be too happy with their providers' pricing. In a recent survey of home telecommunications subscribers by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, respondents gave almost universally low ratings for value across services--especially TV and Internet. Even providers that are rated high in service satisfaction rate middling or lower for value.

Our survey respondents have found plenty of success when negotiating with their telecom providers. Yet there are signs that those providers may be cracking down on serial negotiators. Still, our advice is that when your telcom company gets tough, bargain even harder.

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