Real Time Communications Industry News

TMCNet:  San Jose Mercury News Troy Wolverton column

[December 03, 2012]

San Jose Mercury News Troy Wolverton column

Dec 03, 2012 (San Jose Mercury News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- After much debate, my wife and I finally switched our triple-play provider from Comcast to AT&T. And I'm happy we made the jump.

We're saving money and we didn't feel valued by Comcast.

As I mentioned in a column back in September, I started exploring our triple-play options because the discounted rate I negotiated with Comcast two years earlier was set to expire and our bill was about to go up significantly for our bundle of phone, Internet and pay TV services. We weren't sure then that we wanted to leave Comcast, but we also didn't want to pay through the nose for our triple-play package.


Instead of deciding right away, I dithered -- and paid the price. Our discount expired and our bill went up from about $135 a month, before taxes, to $160 a month, which was way more than we wanted to pay.

So my wife and I re-examined our options. We considered dropping our home phone service, but my wife uses it fairly often for work. We also considered dropping our TV service, but I wasn't ready to try to cobble together some kind of replacement using Netflix (NFLX), Hulu and the like.

In the end, we decided to stick with a triple play, which basically narrowed our choices to packages offered by AT&T and Comcast. While we could have gotten Internet service, TV and phone service a la carte from those or other providers, we were offered better deals if we got all three from one company. Plus, for truly high-speed Internet service -- one of our top priorities -- our only real options were Comcast and AT&T, and they don't discount their service unless you sign up for some kind of bundle.

So I went back to Comcast and AT&T to see what kind of deal we could get. What struck me was how inflexible the company was with its bundles and pricing, and how little concern the company seemed to have that it might lose us as customers.

We wanted to continue the service we had with Comcast, which consisted of their 30 megabit-per-second "Blast" Internet service, unlimited phone service and 85-channel "Digital Starter" TV package. But the deal Comcast offered us would have required us to sign a two-year contract under which we would have paid $126 a month for the first year before taxes, $146 a month the second year and then $166 a month after the contract expired. Our only options to cut those rates were to drop down to a slower-speed Internet service or get rid of our DVR, neither of which we wanted to do.

Comcast's inflexibility surprised me. I'd heard that when customers threaten to cut off their service, the company would offer attractive deals to keep them around. That may be true in some cases -- but not in ours.

By contrast, AT&T was much more consumer friendly. I was able to design a triple-play package that includes the18 megabit-per-second Max Plus Internet service, which is the fastest AT&T offers in our area; the Voice 250 phone service, which offers 250 voice minutes; and its U200 TV service, which features 200 channels, high-definition offerings and a DVR. For that package we will pay just $115 per month for the first six months and $125 per month for the next 18 months. Assuming we stick with AT&T for two years, we'll save about $324 compared with what we would have paid Comcast.

And that doesn't include a $200 gift card from AT&T that we can use to pay our bill -- or for whatever else we want to spend it on.

Even though our rate is locked in for two years, we only had to sign a one-year contract. So if we don't like the service, we can switch much sooner than we would have been able to with Comcast.

With the new service, we get more than twice as many channels as before and a DVR that's easier to use and can record up to four programs at once -- compared with just two at a time with Comcast's.

To be sure, our new service isn't perfect. One way we cut costs was by choosing a phone plan with limited voice minutes. I'm a little worried that the 250 minutes a month we get under the new plan won't be adequate, but at least we had the choice of a less costly plan, something we didn't have with Comcast.

I'm also not entirely happy about our Internet speeds. The download speed is fast enough that I haven't noticed a difference so far from what we experienced with Comcast. But I worry about the upload speed is going to prove frustratingly slow. At 1.5 megabits per second, it's throughput is about a quarter that of Comcast's, which could make things painful when I upload pictures, movies or other large files.

And I'm bummed that I can't set the DVR to record programs on an ongoing basis via keyword search. With my Comcast and Dish DVR's, I was able to set up such searches so that they would record whenever my favorite team played. Now I'm going to have to be much more vigilant about consulting the TV schedules for when they will be on the air.

But overall, I'm pleased with our new service. It's great to save money, feel appreciated and get the overall service we wanted.

Comcast could learn a lesson or two from AT&T.

Contact Troy Wolverton at 408-840-4285 or twolverton@mercurynews.com. Follow him at www.mercurynews.com/troy-wolverton or Twitter.com/troywolv.

___ (c)2012 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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