<!--:es-->Save a Bundle
…Internet, phone and TV packages can pay off, but some have snags<!--:-->

Save a Bundle …Internet, phone and TV packages can pay off, but some have snags

El concepto de paquetes o “bundles” se lanzó al mercado en el 2002 cuando la desregulación del Telecommunications Act of 1996 lo hizo posible. Sin embargo tomó tiempo para que el consumidor optara por estos paquetes. Por ejemplo, tres años después de su lanzamiento en el 2005, el 67 por ciento de los hogares aún no tenía preferencia en cuanto su paquete/proveedor según TNS Telecoms.

Sin embargo, los avances de la tecnología han popularizado estos paquetes hoy día. De acuerdo a un estudio del 2008 de CFI Group, la mayoría de los consumidores actualmente prefieren los bundles. Y según Consumer Reports (documento adjunto), en el 2008 los precios para los bundles bajaron hasta un 20 por ciento con ahorros de un promedio de $30 dólares al mes. Además, según el bufete de investigación Telephia, dos de cada cinco hogares en Estados Unidos tienen un paquete, y la razón principal porque el consumidor prefiere estos paquetes es el precio.

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 Use our Ratings (available to subscribers) to see how your bundled services stack up against the competition. Only a few cable companies, most of them smaller players, even came close to matching fiber on customers’ consistently high satisfaction with Internet, phone, and TV. (Check with AT&T and Verizon about fiber availability, which is limited but spreading fast.) Most cable companies were a step below those top performers for across-the-board satisfaction, as were satellite-TV providers, whose services are included in bundles with DSL Internet and landline service from With most providers, the more services you get, the more you’ll save. Bundles also allow for integrated services, such as the display of callers’ phone numbers on the TV screen, which is offered with some phone/cable packages. Triple- play offers often come sweetened with more extras, such as free installation, than you would get if you signed up for one or two services. And you might be guaranteed low rates for a longer period of time with triple-play than when Taking fewer than three services from any one provider allows flexibility.

You could, for example, take TV and Internet service via fiber, perhaps with an introductory rate, and third-party, low-cost voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone service from a company such as Vonage, which was among the better phone providers in our Ratings and a standout Spreading your service among a few carriers also eliminates the possibility that a network or equipment failure will

And though bundles usually ensure maximum savings, we found at least one instance where the cost of a service taken individually was actually lower than when it was part of a package.

Cable VoIP and fiber phone service require a battery backup to use the phone during power outages. One might be provided with your service or can be purchased for about $45. But such packs provide only 8 or so hours of running time, so you could lose phone service during a longer outage.

Emergency 911 service also varies among technologies. Fiber phone service uses the same long-proven location system as a landline phone. Newer cable-phone and other VoIP 911 services depend on the provider supplying local emergency services with your address, a federal requirement. The agency also requires that new VoIP customers be informed that emergency service “may in some way be limited in comparison to traditional 911 service.” We recommend supplementing VoIP service with basic landline service, which costs about $20, for use in 911 calls.

As our Ratings (available to subscribers) reveal, providers differ in more than their customers’ overall satisfaction.

For example, scores vary widely for selection of TV channels. Fiber, satellite, and some cable services are touting their total number of high-definition channels. But channel count should matter less to you than the presence of distinctive programming you might want, such as the NFL packages exclusive to DirecTV.

Usually, fiber and satellite have a termination fee but cable doesn’t. And some providers might offer to lock in your rate beyond the promotional period if you sign a contract. (We would decline the offer.)