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Internet & Phone Bundles

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The concept behind internet and phone bundle packages is older than the technology itself. Fast food restaurants have been using this marketing strategy for decades via offerings like children's meals. Even my favorite grocery store gets in on the action with their prepackaged Thanksgiving feast, which includes everything you need for a complete holiday dinner. So why not apply this idea to your home communications services as well?

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Bundling is an established fixture among home internet service providers, with names like Double Play and Triple Play denoting the number of services offered in a given package. You may wonder if internet and phone bundles are right for your needs, and just as importantly, your budget. In this guide, I'll give you an overview of how internet and phone bundles work, along with tips to help you decide on a package.

What Are Internet and Phone Bundles?

Bundling is a common practice among communications services providers. Companies put various services together in packages to make it simpler for you to get everything you need, ideally at a better price than if you purchased the services separately. The best internet providers, like these providers here, offer a variety of package combinations, in the form of double play or triple play bundles. In addition to internet and telephone service, you can also combine other services, like cable and internet bundles. For example, Comcast Internet (Xfinity) pairs its cable television packages with internet and home phone service in their triple play bundles or internet and phone in their double play offerings. You can learn more about Comcast's internet packages within this guide.

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Why Buy Internet and Phone Service Together?

The main reason to go with internet and phone bundles rather than a la carte services is for the bundle discount. By choosing a package that includes everything you want in one place, you can save anywhere from $10 to $60 or more per month over purchasing your communications services separately. For instance, Comcast's Xfinity Voice Unlimited (which features free calling nationwide as well as to several other countries) retails for $44.95 per month.

By choosing one of the cable giant's current double play offers, however, you get 25Mbps internet with their Voice Unlimited for $49.99 a month (for one year). This amounts to a total bundle discount of $35 per month.

By choosing a package that includes everything you want in one place, you can save anywhere from $10 to $60 or more per month over purchasing your communications services separately.

Economical benefits aren't the only perks of bundles, however. There are a few more potential advantages of buying everything together:

Related: How to Get Internet Service at Home

1. One bill

Budgeting can get complicated with everything you've got on your plate. Between the mortgage, utilities, credit cards, and other household financials to keep track of, having all of your home communications services aggregated onto one piece of paper (or e-statement) simplifies at least part of your budgeting responsibilities.

2. One rate to negotiate

Having internet and telephone service together in one package means you only have to make one phone call when the time comes to renegotiate your rates and terms. This saves you time over having to call multiple companies.

3. Bonus perks

Some companies give you extras just for combining your services on one bill. For example, unlimited internet plans are few and far between in the industry, but AT&T gives you this benefit just for subscribing to both internet and cable television on the same bill. If you order the internet by itself, unlimited data will set you back $30 extra per month. Another example? The Centurylink bundle, which provides you with three full years of the promotional bundling price, rather than the typical two years, before you pay the standard rate.

If you need another example, let's refer to Charter's contract buyout service. These Spectrum Internet plans, Spectrum TV packages, and Spectrum Voice service may be enticing to you, but you may feel stuck with your current provider. After all, you may have to pay a hefty early termination fee. Early termination fees may amount to literally hundreds of dollars. In that case, you may want to take advantage of Charter Spectrum's contract buyout. The company will spend up to $500 to buy out your contract, but you need to order and install the Charter Spectrum Triple Play Bundle.

It's important to evaluate all angles before making the decision to dive into internet and phone bundles.

What to Consider

Choosing between internet and phone bundles isn't as simple as clicking on the first affordable offer you see. There are a few things you should keep in mind as you evaluate not only the benefits but the implications of each package as well.

1. Do you really need it?

If you weren't planning on buying landline service, then internet and phone bundles don't make sense. Only bundle services you were already planning on ordering, even if the customer service representative insists that the deal is too good to pass up. Data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) shows that nearly half of households use only wireless phone service. If you won't use it, you don't need to spend money on it. Furthermore, if you're interested in a landline service, consider the call features. There are many call features available, but you may not need them all, so be sure to decide what call features you absolutely need for adopting the service.

2. Account for the tax fees and service fees

When you figure your internet and phone service budget it's important to remember that the bundle price isn't the real amount you'll be shelling out each month. As The Consumerist points out, the fees can really add up. On top of tax fees and regulation fees, such as phone tax (which is lower than wireless phone tax), there may be other fees assessed by your internet and phone provider. Plus, internet modem rental typically adds about $10/month. If you add cable television (for instance, you can add Spectrum TV to your Spectrum Voice and Spectrum Internet bundle) to your bundle you could be looking at more than $20 per month just in associated fees, such as the regional sports fee, HD programming fee, TV equipment fee, and broadcast TV fee. Be sure you ask for the actual total you'll be paying before you subscribe, and also check occasionally with your provider if the fees are altered, as the additional charges are always subject to change.

3. Consider future-proofing your connection

I know it flies in the face of what I recommend above about only ordering what you need, however, if you foresee yourself utilizing all of the latest technology as it comes out you might want to level up your internet speed ahead of time. Things like 4k video and virtual reality devices are quickly becoming mainstream. Who knows what else the future may bring, but one thing is certain - these high-demand tasks are bandwidth and data guzzlers. If you're the type to keep up with tech trends, it's wise to choose something like fiber or gigabit DOCSIS for your connection.

4. Know your phone line

As technology advances, copper phone lines are gradually moving to the back burner. Services like Verizon phone and internet are switching many of their customers' phone lines to fiber optic. Fiber optic networks offer advantages over copper in terms of clarity and reliability, but there is a caveat. You should be aware what you have because fiber requires power for your phone to work, whereas copper does not. Internet and phone providers do offer battery backup solutions, however.

Only bundle services you were already planning on ordering, even if the customer service representative insists that the deal is too good to pass up.

5. Be aware of the available internet packages

There are a variety of internet and phone packages that should be taken into consideration. What you need for an internet speed is largely dependent on your internet-related activities, but what you can select will also depend on the bundle packages offered by the service provider. The providers may not offer satellite high-speed internet service, but they are incredibly likely to offer other forms of high speed internet service, as well as dial-up internet.

6. Bundle deals may include partnerships

A provider may shine a spotlight on a double or triple play bundle but may not actually host the particular TV and internet service. Instead, the provider may partner with a service, such as DIRECTV. Let's take, for instance, the triple play bundle from Centurylink. This Centurylink bundle, which includes TV and internet service, offers DIRECTV services. This DIRECTV bundle also includes high speed internet, as well as home phone unlimited, which comes complete with long distance service. This Centurylink bundle and DIRECTV bundle, which includes the unlimited long distance service as well as 40Mbps of high-speed internet, is set at an incredibly reasonable price.

7. Research the available TV packages

You may want to add both TV and internet to your phone service. However, you should be aware of what TV packages you can purchase with the provider. Furthermore, you should know what equipment would be included in the TV and internet bundle. For instance, with a TV bundle or individual package, you may be eligible for free HD DVR TV equipment, though if you want to upgrade the HD DVR service, you may have to pay an additional charge.

You should also understand the types of TV bundles and packages the provider offers. Does the provider offer HD channels? What packages come equipped with HD channels? Even more important, do you want satellite TV or cable TV? For instance, DISH Network provides customers with satellite TV at a reasonable price, complete with DVR service and HD programming. There are disadvantages and advantages that come with satellite TV, so you should take the time to compare and contrast both satellite TV and cable TV providers.

Related: If you're uninterested in phone service, you can compare TV and internet bundles.

Also, consider the available offers, which are subject to change, each provider might have. For instance, the available DIRECTV offers may include a $100 Visa Gift Card. Another DIRECTV offer includes the first three months of HBO, Cinemax, and Starz at no extra cost.

Approach your investigation of internet and phone bundles just like you would any other purchase involving a commitment. Use common sense and read all the fine print.

The Different Types of Internet Connections

  • DSL: DSL is the first type of broadband or high-speed internet service. DSL internet speed starts as slow as 128Kpbs to 3Mbps or higher.
  • Satellite: Satellite high-speed internet is faster than DSL, with providers typically offering up to 10Mbps. However, there are some internet service providers, such as Exede Internet, that will provide you with up to 25Mbps.
  • Cable Internet: Cable internet relies on coaxial cables to transfer data and provide you with functioning internet speeds and stability. However, the cable internet speeds range more widely compared to the previous types. For instance, the AT&T cable internet speed starts as low as 12Mbps but can go beyond 75Mbps. With cable internet, you can either rent an internet modem from the cable internet provider, or you can purchase the internet modem outright and save money over a longer term. Many cable internet providers, such as Charter Internet, will sport rather high speed cable internet packages. Charter Internet offers speeds of up 100Mbps.
  • Fiber Optic: Fiber optic internet is currently the fastest internet type around, but it has only been implemented in several states. With fiber optic internet, however, you'll be able to achieve 1Gbps internet speeds or faster. Furthermore, the download speeds and the upload speeds are parallel.
  • Dial-Up: Dial-up is the slowest type of internet service available. You can only reach internet speeds of up to 56Kbps. Dial-up service may be - outside of satellite internet - the only available option in rural locations.

How to Find the Best Bundle Deals

Whether you're searching for the best internet deals or you need an affordable international calling plan, there are ways to keep your internet and phone service bill under control.

1. Calculate the a la carte prices

Before you commit to any bundle, you should add up the costs of the individual services. Buying them together is usually the better deal, but that's not always the case so be sure you know exactly how much you'll save with a phone and internet bundle. CNET reports that Comcast has claimed a 40% or better savings by subscribing to their Triple Play. You should examine claims like this to make sure they're accurate.

The challenge is that many of the major providers do not have retail price information easily accessible on their websites, so it can be tough to verify claims like the above one by Comcast. The best thing to do is call or use live chat to talk to a rep and get the scoop on regular pricing, or Google "retail pricing (provider and service names)". Because pricing varies by location, companies typically organize their bundle price lists by state. As I said, however, this information isn't typically posted right in the consumer area of their websites.

2. Be aware of temporary promotions

Many of the best rates are offered as a part of a promotional offer. Just be vigilant about knowing the terms of these offers. They're typically available to new customers only, and the prices last for 12-24 months. After that time your bill will jump to the standard rate. The best way to keep your internet and phone service bill low is to call before your introductory period expires and negotiate a new rate for after the current one expires.

3. Shop around

Use our easy and convenient zip code checker tool to find local offers on home phone and internet service and then look into each provider to see who has the best deal. Consider the big picture - one company may have an unbeatable promotional rate on high-speed internet and unlimited calling but the price you pay later may be higher than another provider. In other words, calculate what you'll end up paying over the long haul rather than just the first year or two.

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If personalized service is especially important to you, don't discount local internet providers. These smaller independent companies tend to have faster customer service response times and competitive rates. The trade-off is that they can be harder to find and may not offer the deep promotional discounts the big guys can afford to give new customers.

If you want to save more and don't require a lot of channels, you can always consider TV internet services. TV internet services, either on demand based or via live streaming, include Hulu, Netflix, PlayStation Vue, and Sling TV. Many of these services are cheap, often requiring you a minimum of around $10 per month, though Sling TV begins at $20.

Some Companies Team Up to Offer Bundles

You may be in a situation where you want phone service from one company, but they don't offer internet or vice versa. This is especially common when it comes to satellite internet or television providers. Fortunately, some companies partner with each other to offer good deals on combined services. This means that you can get TV, internet, and phone bundles even from companies that don't directly provide one or more of these services. This practice allows you to get the services you really want from multiple providers, yet with the benefit of bundled prices.

One thing to keep in mind is that you will need to be vigilant about monitoring your bill (which you should be doing anyway). Be sure you're getting the prices you were quoted and that each company is billing you accurately.

Recap

There are so many different ways to get communications services in today's high-tech world that it can be a bit overwhelming to decide on the best option for your household. By using the tips in this guide, along with our handy zip code checker tool, you can maximize your savings and minimize confusion. There's nothing wrong with taking advantage of bundles offered by phone and internet providers, just make sure you know what you're getting and exactly what you'll be paying - in the short term and the long.

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