Choosing the Right Cable TV and Internet Packages for You
Cable providers have never needed your business more than they do right now. Streaming video services, such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, now offer more content than ever. The cellular providers have also upped their game, with improvements in network speed and coverage and the introduction of affordable unlimited data plans. In the third quarter of 2017, Comcast lost 125,000 customers. AT&T also fared poorly, losing 134,000 U-verse customers in the same period.
For some people, a mobile phone with an internet connection provides all the content they could ever want. Others, though, still prefer the speed, reliability and predictable pricing of a traditional cable TV and internet bundle. If you’re a member of the second group, now is the perfect time to start a new cable plan. With the cable companies desperate for new customers, you’re certain to get a good deal. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide the information necessary to help you make the right choice.
How to Choose a Cable Provider
Consider Customer Service
In a 2018 USA Today list of America’s most hated companies, CenturyLink and Comcast both ranked within the top 20. Some of the typical reasons why people complain about cable companies include poor speed and reliability, difficulty canceling service, high termination fees and poor customer support.
Before opening an account with a cable company, you should learn everything you can about the quality of that company’s customer service. Do all of the company’s call center operators work in the United States — or just the sales staff? If you have a problem with your service, will the company dispatch a technician promptly? Will the company make it difficult for you to cancel your service and return leased equipment? You should choose a cable company that strives to give you a great experience.
Compare Available Packages
Paying a single monthly price for a package that includes both TV and internet access is often a great way to save money. However, a package deal may include many extra channels that you don’t want. Compare the available bundles carefully to confirm that they’ll actually cost less than a package with only the channels you want.
Negotiate the Best Deal
Until recently, lack of choice was one of the biggest problems associated with choosing a cable provider. If a single cable company owned all of your local communication lines — and you don’t like that company — you couldn’t simply choose a different cable provider. You could either become a customer of that cable provider or choose a different type of service.
Today, though, non-cable TV and internet services are better than ever. LTE cellular networking is available in much of the United States, and many wireless providers now include free video content in their plans. T-Mobile, for example, gives its customers access to free streaming Major League Baseball games. AT&T includes streaming HBO programming with its wireless plans. You have choices, and you can use them to your advantage in negotiating the best possible plan with a cable provider.
AT&T U-verse is a non-traditional cable provider, in that the company doesn’t use standard cable lines to provide services. Instead, AT&T uses fiber optic cables to carry services to local regions. The content travels from the fiber hubs to homes over copper telephone wires. Some regions in which AT&T U-verse is available includes the West Coast, the Midwest and many southern states. AT&T has also partnered with DIRECTV to provide television service where U-verse is unavailable. The fact that U-verse delivers television content as an internet data stream gives you some flexibility regarding the channels that you can choose, but some plans may limit the number of different channels that you can watch simultaneously in a home with multiple televisions.
The AT&T U-verse TV + internet bundle costs $80 per month. At the time of writing, AT&T guarantees that new customers will not experience a rate increase for at least two years. To receive the introductory price, you must commit to at least one year of U-verse service. The package also gives you free access to premium channels for the first three months, along with a DVR capable of recording multiple programs simultaneously.
U-verse Channels and Internet Service
The basic U-verse TV package is called U-family. It includes more than 200 channels, although channel availability for U-verse and all other TV services depends on the region in which you live. The top U-verse TV package — the oddly named U450 package — includes more than 550 channels. You can add regional sports networks to your U-verse package for an additional monthly fee.
Delivering data services over a fiber optic network allows AT&T to provide U-verse internet access at extremely high speeds. While the basic internet service ranges from 6.1-12 Mbps, download speeds up to 1,000 Mbps are available in some areas.
XFINITY became the brand name for Comcast’s digital TV, internet and phone services after a 2010 rebranding. The rebranding proved successful; by 2016, Comcast reported more than $50 billion in yearly revenue.
The XFINITY X1 Double Play is Comcast’s bundle that includes both TV and internet services. It includes access to the XFINITY Wi-Fi network, allowing you to get internet access on a mobile phone without using your data allotment in many locations. The bundle starts $89.99 per month for the first year, but your price may be higher if you lease your modem from Comcast.
XFINITY Channels and Internet Service
The basic XFINITY X1 bundle includes internet speed up to 25 Mbps but provides only a limited channel selection, including C-SPAN, HSN and CBS. Upgrading to the Internet Pro Plus plan gives you download speeds up to 75 Mbps and more than 100 channels. The top service tiers give you access to nearly 300 channels. In some areas, you can get XFINITY internet service with download speeds up to 2,000 Mbps.
Charter Spectrum Intro
With its 2016 acquisition of Time Warner and Bright House, Charter became the third largest TV provider in the U.S. Charter Spectrum is available in many of the nation’s major metropolitan areas, including New York, Detroit, Honolulu, Atlanta, Reno, Los Angeles and Seattle. Spectrum’s availability will expand to include more rural areas as the network grows.
Charter Spectrum Bundle
Charter’s base bundle costs $89.97 per month for the first 12 months and includes TV, internet and telephone service. While the bundle may cost more than what other companies charge, it also comes with a few perks that most other providers don’t offer. For starters, the plan has no contract; you can cancel any time. Charter doesn’t charge a modem rental fee. The bundle includes access to nationwide Wi-FI access points. You’ll also get a free DVR for the first year. Perhaps the most impressive feature of Charter is that the company will pay your early termination fee of up to $500 if you’re currently under contract with another carrier.
Charter Spectrum Triple Play Channels and Internet Service
The basic Charter service comes with 125 channels, including networks such as ESPN and Lifetime. Adding $20 per month gives you access to another 50 channels, including HBO and Showtime. Adding another $20 gives you another 25 channels, including STARZ and NFL RedZone. All plans include internet speeds of 60 Mbps and up. The phone service includes nationwide calling with no long-distance charges and no limits.
Cable service is available from Cox Communications in 18 states. The top metropolitan areas served by Cox include the San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix areas.
Cox TV and internet bundles start at $69.99 per month for the first year and are highly customizable to suit your needs. While Cox doesn’t require you to include telephone service in your bundle, doing so adds no additional monthly cost during the introductory period. Cox also offers home automation and security monitoring services.
Cox Channels and Internet Service
The $69.99 Contour Flex and Internet Essential 30 bundle includes 75 TV channels, along with one premium channel of your choice. At that service tier, you’ll enjoy internet speeds up to 30 Mbps. Cox also offers TV plans with up to 250 channels and internet plans with download speeds up to 300 Mbps. You can mix and match the plans. If you add phone service, you’ll get unlimited calling within the United States, Canada and Mexico.
DISH— provides satellite service rather than terrestrial television. Unlike the cable companies — which consumers seem to universally revile — DISH holds the prestigious top customer service rating among pay TV providers from J. D. Power. DISH is available in many areas, including rural. Since DISH is a satellite provider, you can receive service if you can find a dish mounting location with a clear view of the southern sky. DISH also resells internet service. If you bundle TV and internet service, the type of internet service that you receive will depend on your location. In rural locations, you’ll get satellite internet service. In urban locations, you’ll get terrestrial internet service.
Like satellite TV, satellite internet service is available throughout the continental U.S., as long as you have an appropriate place in which to mount the satellite dish. You can see which types of internet service are available in your area by entering your ZIP code on the DISH bundle page. Since DISH is a reseller of internet service — and what’s available depends on where you live — the DISH website doesn’t discuss pricing. If you want to purchase bundled service, you’ll need to contact DISH for details.
DISH Channels and Internet Service
DISH TV service starts at $59.99 per month, and the price for the service tier you select is guaranteed for two years. Each package includes a DVR and a remote with voice recognition. The base package includes 190 channels. The top package includes 290 channels and costs $89.99 per month. Every DISH package includes free basic professional installation and a two-year service commitment. Since the service includes a satellite dish, you will need to pay an early termination fee if you decide to cancel DISH service.
Cable ONE Intro
With scattered coverage areas around the United States, Cable ONE is one of America’s smaller regional cable providers. Idaho is Cable ONE’s largest market, with coverage in more than half of the state. The company also has a presence in North Dakota, Mississippi, New Mexico and several other states. Some major cities that Cable ONE serves are Omaha, Wichita and Tallahassee.
Cable ONE Bundle
Cable ONE only offers one bundle that includes both TV and internet service. The bundle costs $95 per month for the first six months, after which the price increases to $130. Since Cable ONE requires no contract, there is no early termination fee if you decide to cancel your service.
Cable ONE Channels and Internet Service
With the Cable ONE TV and internet bundle, you’ll get download speeds up to 100 Mbps and a monthly data allotment of 300 GB. If you exceed your allotment in a given month, you’ll probably experience slower download speeds for the remainder of that month. The service includes more than 100 TV channels. With included online streaming, you can watch TV content on any device, wherever an internet connection is available.
Verizon Fios Intro
Verizon Fios is unique among terrestrial internet and TV providers. It’s the only major provider that carries data over fiber optic cables reaching to the home. Unlike AT&T U-verse, Fios doesn’t use traditional copper wires to carry data from hubs to homes. While the pure fiber network provides far greater bandwidth than would be possible with other forms of terrestrial internet and TV services, building it was costly for Verizon. The company announced in 2010 that it planned to slow the expansion of its network and concentrate on becoming profitable in its existing markets. Some of the markets in which Fios is available include New York, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Verizon Fios Bundle
The Fios Double Play Bundle starts at $49.99 per month for the first year. After the introductory period, the monthly price will increase by $10. If you are a Verizon Wireless customer and have the company’s unlimited wireless plan, consider adding home phone service and getting the Fios Triple Play plan. After a $20 discount for Verizon Wireless unlimited plan customers, the Triple Play plan has an introductory rate of just $59.99 per month.
Verizon Fios Channels and Internet Service
The basic Fios Double Play plan includes internet service with download speeds of up to 50 Mbps and access to about 15 local TV stations. At the higher service tiers, you’ll get additional TV channels and faster internet speeds, up to 150 Mbps. If you’re a video streamer or have a job that requires an internet connection with a fast upload speed, Verizon Fios is the best internet service, if it’s available in your area. Owing to the incredible bandwidth of fiber optic cables, Fios offers upload speeds that match its download speeds.
Frontier Communications — formerly Citizens Communications Company — is one of America’s largst providers of telephone and DSL internet services. The company has expanded its internet service offerings in recent years by buying network infrastructure from Verizon and AT&T. Frontier even bought a portion of Verizon’s Fios network and now provides fiber optic services in Florida, Texas and California. Since the company doesn’t own traditional cable lines, Frontier isn’t a cable TV carrier. Rather, Frontier provides streaming TV service over its phone and fiber optic lines. While the company does provide service in some major cities, rural areas have long been Frontier’s primary markets. You can get Frontier DSL internet service in many areas that might otherwise have no access to terrestrial broadband service.
Because Frontier provides internet service over standard phone lines, most of the company’s bundles include phone service. An internet-only plan is available, though, for an introductory rate of $25 per month for the first two years. Plans including both internet and phone service start at $47 monthly. The Frontier website doesn’t discuss TV plans in detail because what’s available depends on where you live. If you live in an area where Frontier Fios is available, you can receive streaming TV service over your fiber optic line. Frontier Vantage, a service that streams TV over DSL lines, is available in other areas.
Frontier Channels and Internet Service
Download and upload speeds from Frontier internet service depend on where you live. If Frontier serves your area with DSL service, you can expect download speeds ranging from 6-25 Mbps. If Fios is available, you can get download speeds up to 115 Mbps. Contact Frontier to find out exactly what’s available in your area and how much it will cost.
During the days when wireless providers severely limited the amount of data that customers could utilize each month, many consumers felt as though they had no options when trying to choose the best cable, internet and TV providers. If one company owned the infrastructure, there was no choice. In those days, you could either put up with high prices and poor customer service, or you could do without terrestrial broadband internet access.
Today, though, the tide has turned in favor of the consumer. Unless you live in an extremely remote area, it’s likely that you can get unlimited wireless data for about the same monthly rate as cable internet access — and that means you have a choice. Use that power to negotiate the best possible deal when you open an account with a cable provider, and if the provider fails to deliver on its promises, threaten to cancel your service. Since you can always switch to wireless internet access, your threat will carry weight — and no cable company wants to lose a subscriber. If you politely but firmly utilize your power to the fullest extent, you’ll enjoy the best possible service that your local cable provider can give you.