Getting Telecom Deals

If you are looking to purchase a telecommunications bundle or want to pay less for the one you have, there are a few things to consider before making the phone call to a provider. Judy Rohlena, Senior Editor at ShopSmart Magazine gives tips on how you can save money on phone, internet and cable packages.

Be sure to watch out for gotchas. Take a look at all the plans available in your area and find out what company is offering the most enticing promotions. Be sure to dig deeper to learn about equipment fees and contract terms. Also, take a close look at the channel listings. Companies are big on touting the number of high-def channels they offer, but if you don't read the list carefully, you might miss a favorite channel. For example, Verizon FiOS doesn't offer MSNBC in some portions of New York and New Jersey. And if you want the NFL package, DirecTV is your only option.

Don't go overboard on internet speed. For most users, a download speed of at least 1 megabit per second is sufficient; you'll get more than that with many services. But pass on superfast Internet services like Cablevision's 101Mbps/15 Mbps (download/upload), which will cost you $99.95 a month, unless your family watches more than one video-on-demand at a time or shares a lot of video files.

Check the phone plan details carefully. Most VoIP and fiber phones provide caller ID, voice mail, and unlimited calling in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. If you're not a big gabber, a limited, less-expensive plan might work for you.

Do your best to drive a hard bargain. If you're staying with your current provider, and your initial promo deal is over, call the company and say you're happy with the service but would like it to match a competitor's price. Also ask that installation fees and equipment charges be waived. If the customer-service representative is not helpful, ask for a supervisor. Once you're close to a deal, ask for the exact cost of the first month's bill, including any extra charges, as well as the cost of subsequent bills. When you get your bill, check to be sure no hidden charges crept in.

If you can avoid a contract, do. That's difficult with FiOS, satellite and DSL Providers. Most require a one-year contract with heavy termination fees. DirecTV is especially hard-hitting. It charges up to $480, depending on how long you have the service. Cable companies are more flexible, but watch out for deals that lock in a triple-play rate; those are sometimes tied to a contract.

For more information on telecom bundling and other consumer tips click here.
Jody Rohlena & Erika Wortham