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Bundle Up: Seek Real Broadband Deals, Be Wary of Marketing
Bundle 'Deals' Usually Misleading, Rarely Straightforward
by Kevin Bryan 02:33PM Thursday Mar 22 2012
Competition works best in threes, so says timeless wisdom. In central Connecticut there is broadband competition - well sort of -- but this competition comes in a twosome. It appears as competition, with millions spent on glossy mailings to the home, web, print, and TV ads. There is a surface level wow factor at work when a potential recruit (customer) sees the colors of the marketing materials, and the packages offered, and suddenly the feeling just overcomes them that there is something to be gained by bundling.

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One ear of corn for a dollar and twelve for $6. Sadly it seems as though the residential broadband customer is getting six of one and a half dozen of the other unless they really dig below the layers of B-School fluff and get a firm deal or a unique offering.

This commentary from consumer row aims to equally offend or point out equal offenses committed by, the two major players in many of the cities and burbs across Connecticut (and a wide swath of America for that matter): AT&T and Comcast.

AT&T truly leapt into the broadband bundle business here in 2007 with a gradual rollout of their triple play offer under the U-Verse banner. Though slightly late to the game, as Comcast had been offering their bundle with Digital Voice starting two years prior, AT&T was given a British Open style wind at their backs by state regulators due to the fact that they were allowed to collect approximately half the taxes on TV services that cable co.'s and satellite providers were being asked to remit.

Additionally, they were exempted from rules that would have required them to build out to every neighborhood in the cities and towns where they offered service. So when AT&T came on to the dance floor with great fanfare, were they singing celestial sounds heralding great deals? Hardly, because at a time when Comcast HSI's base speeds of their most popular offering were 6 mbps, ATT was sticking DSL Express into their bundles at the not-so-broadband speed of 1.5 mbps. This had an artificial effect of making their triple play seem like the low bid.

it seems like too much is being spent on bringing in new fish, while customers of twenty-plus years are being allowed to flounder at premium rates.
To be fair, Comcast has relied on many 6 month offers on individual services, and flipped the way they market bundled services multiple times over the past few years. Regularly, we have seen straight 12 month offers. There have been 12 month locked-in offers but only as a part of a two year contract that allows for steeper rates beginning in month 13.

Occasionally, there has been a two year contract promising consistent monthly pricing throughout. Market research on the effects of promotions must not apply to me because what I want most is just the best deal month-to-month without the need for me to hire an offensive coordinator to read the playbook. Given a dear family member's shock at their bill for Comcast Digital Starter TV with one HD box being $89 rounded off, it seems like too much is being spent on bringing in new fish, while customers of twenty-plus years are being allowed to flounder at premium rates.

Despite complex bundling schematics offered by both companies, AT&T has taken the brass ring in confusing the hell out of customers. They seek to give you your monthly bundle discounts in the form of prepaid credit cards mailed out in a future billing cycle. Upon grilling one of their sales reps who called recently after 7 PM, it was revealed that Ma Bell has reversed on a previous policy banning these prepaid cards from being used to pay your AT&T bill. What's next, rebates paid in sand dollars?

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Residents along a historic stretch of Route 10 have received no less than ten glossy advertisements since the summer of '09 promoting U-Verse bundles. However, in none of these brochures were the monthly prices listed. The main selling point are always rebates up to ______ (some figure north of $100).

In this rather sad market of anti-consumer faux price competition, there occasionally exist some asterisks that can actually provide cost savings to the consumer. For example Comcast is currently offering a Blast Plus Extra two-service bundle that encompasses Digital Economy TV (essentially Digital Starter minus sports programming) and Blast HSI at a non-gimmick price of $79.99 per month. This deal cannot be had by calling, but is available online when logging in to manage your account and also through their door to door sales reps.

In AT&T's case, the telco would like to charge you a nearly $200 installation visit charge if you do not take TV services in their U-Verse bundle, but there was a bright spot in the conversation with AT&T mentioned earlier. Many (I was not given a specific %) who are looking to or forced to upgrade to U-Verse internet can opt for self-install and only pay the fee for the gateway.

In closing, be willing to try various outlets to get the best deal for yourself: online, via phone, door to door, and retail. Get your offer in writing! Finally, try reconciliation before cancellation. A call to the retention department may get you $10 to $15 off per month for 12 months, giving you the incentive to not go through the hassle of changing services.

This article is part of an effort to solicit paid content from the Broadband Reports community. If you'd like to participate, please contact us.

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jchambers28

join:2007-05-12
Alma, AR

1 recommendation

Cox bundle

Cox offered me a TV and internet bundle but with the caps it was less attractive.

ArrayList
netbus developer
Premium
join:2005-03-19
Brighton, MA

1 recommendation

Yep

I just love signing up for crap that I don't need.
axus

join:2001-06-18
Washington, DC

Cool

Thanks for the article Comcast vs. AT&T, there's a fun choice.

antdude
A Ninja Ant
Premium,VIP
join:2001-03-25
United State
kudos:5

Yeah, sneaky promotions and cheap prices.

I always look at their regular prices first and then look at their promotions.
Papageno

join:2011-01-26
Portland, OR

Digital Economy means no access to HD, either, alas

Even to the HD equivalents of SD channels you're already getting in the Digital Economy package, which is kinda bullshit. And even if you're not relying on Comcast's cable box but on your own HD Tivo + CableCard.
Kevin Bryan

join:2012-03-19
Scotland, CT

Re: Digital Economy means no access to HD, either, alas

Could that be because of the market you live in?

In parts of Connecticut HD feeds of both the local (broadcast) and most of the expanded basic in the Economy package are included. Fox News HD is not listed on the guide but does come through on Ch. 241.
Papageno

join:2011-01-26
Portland, OR

Re: Digital Economy means no access to HD, either, alas

Well, that may be. I was surprised that HD didn't come with the Economy tier in Portland, OR. As it turned out though there was a show or two that I wanted to watch on TNT, which wasn't included in the Economy tier.

By the way, whatever happened to a-la-carte pricing? I couldn't give two craps about the sports channels, or the Home and Garden bullsh*t, or cooking or MTV or VH1 for instance.

dmeyer6

join:2002-08-14
Austin, TX

Bundles suck

$89/mo is kinda high for an internet + digital TV bundle. And it's pretty deceptive because they don't include the taxes and fees for the cable box, modem, etc.

For me, paying more than $45/mo to the telco/cableco is stupid. I get all the free TV channels with a UHF antenna and everything else I can get on Netflix or Torrent.

Give me a la carte Cable TV and I might be willing to spend a few bucks more to watch the 3 or 4 cable channels I actually do like, such as Comedy Central and Discovery Networks.
fiberguy
My views are my own.
Premium
join:2005-05-20
kudos:3

Re: Bundles suck

said by dmeyer6:

$89/mo is kinda high for an internet + digital TV bundle. And it's pretty deceptive because they don't include the taxes and fees for the cable box, modem, etc.

It is? Basic is about $55 and internet is about $46. I'd say $11 off isn't a bad deal. What are you expecting?... a 50% break? Wait.. I need to keep reading.

For me, paying more than $45/mo to the telco/cableco is stupid. I get all the free TV channels with a UHF antenna and everything else I can get on Netflix or Torrent.

Well, you're going to pay more than $45 a month then because you're pretty much an internet-only customer and that's USUALLY not going to get you just internet at $45 a month. Interesting, though, that being your internet connection is giving you your web, email, music, TV, banking, multiple connections to the internet, etc,.. seems like the connection has a lot of value doesn't it?

Give me a la carte Cable TV and I might be willing to spend a few bucks more to watch the 3 or 4 cable channels I actually do like, such as Comedy Central and Discovery Networks.

I knew I needed to keep reading. It's never going to happen.. you're never going to be able to just spend "a few bucks more" and subscribe to a couple channels. The industry isn't set up for customers like you who just want a channel or what not.

... ahhh, to be young again.

StuartMW
Who Is John Galt?
Premium
join:2000-08-06
Galt's Gulch
kudos:3

Duh!

Isn't this all a case of caveat emptor?

All these companies are trying to make as much from you as possible. Yeah its a hassle to read the fine print but these "deals" probably aren't as good as they first seem in the TV/radio/website ads.

I do bundle my internet and TV services and (really) get $5 off/month. Not a lot but I researched that offer, looking for "tricks", before I signed up for it.
--
Don't feed trolls--it only makes them grow!
Kevin Bryan

join:2012-03-19
Scotland, CT

Re: Duh!

said by StuartMW:

I do bundle my internet and TV services and (really) get $5 off/month. Not a lot but I researched that offer, looking for "tricks", before I signed up for it.

I get your point, however, price is not the bottom line for all of us. I might want to get the Economy TV package with Comcast for $40, sign up with 3.0 mbps DSL service with an independent, local DSL provider that provides great service for $50, and pay Ma Bell $10 for POTS phone service at a per minute rate (a requirement for the independent DSL service), and be very happy with that $100 "bundle" that I made on my own. Someone could tell me that they get way more from Comcast for $100 (HD box extra of course). Myself and I'm sure others on here alike prefer the freedom of making up our own unbundled bundle.

StuartMW
Who Is John Galt?
Premium
join:2000-08-06
Galt's Gulch
kudos:3

Re: Duh!

said by Kevin Bryan:

I get your point, however, price is not the bottom line for all of us.

It wasn't for me either. I already had the TV service (for 16+years) when I relocated and had to find a new ISP. Bundling the two was more of a convenience (of only having one bill). The $5 saving was a bonus.

CenturyLink is constantly bombarding me with offers to bundle phone service. Instead I use a MagicJack, which although not perfect, suits my needs at a far lower cost.
--
Don't feed trolls--it only makes them grow!
Telco

join:2008-12-19

1 recommendation

Scam

The other problem with bundles in our market is that they are only for x time: 6, 12, or 18 months. After that, you pay out of the you know where.
Sammer

join:2005-12-22
Canonsburg, PA

Re: Scam

said by Telco:

The other problem with bundles in our market is that they are only for x time: 6, 12, or 18 months. After that, you pay out of the you know where.

Especially with Xfinity! IMHO Xfinity really means infinitely expensive.

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

I have the Xfinity Triple Play

I like having my home phone, internet, phone (and soon my home security if I get it) through one provider. It's one bill instead of three or four. And they usually offer bundle discounts.

I am thinking of ditching the Extreme 50 upgrade and going back to Blast when I get Xfinity home security installed.
--
All of my CPE (including my EMTA) is customer owned. The only Comcast owned equipment in my house is the CableCards in the two TiVO boxes I own.
Kevin Bryan

join:2012-03-19
Scotland, CT

Re: I have the Xfinity Triple Play

Could you let me know whom you bought your Comcast compatible EMTA from ?

IowaCowboy
Iowa native
Premium
join:2010-10-16
Springfield, MA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Broadban..
·Comcast

Re: I have the Xfinity Triple Play

said by Kevin Bryan:

Could you let me know whom you bought your Comcast compatible EMTA from ?

I bought it from Best Buy as Best Buy sells it at certain locations and it came in Xfinity branded packaging. I bought mine at the Holyoke MA (Holyoke Mall) Best Buy for $149.99 and it's the Arris TM722G, which supports DOCSIS 3.0
--
All of my CPE (including my EMTA) is customer owned. The only Comcast owned equipment in my house is the CableCards in the two TiVO boxes I own.