When the magazine asked for feedback among US consumers on their experiences with pay TV, home internet, home telephone service, and bundled plans, they shared their displeasure.
In fact, most of the larger cable companies — Optimum (Cablevision), Comcast, and Spectrum (Charter, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks) — earned low scores in multiple categories, settling into the bottom half of the 25 providers in CR’s new telecom service ratings.
The lone standout for TV service was Google Fiber, which earned top marks for technical support, customer service, and equipment ease of use, plus favorable ratings for reliability and the selection of programs offered in its basic package.
Although the service received only a passable rating for value, it was still head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field.
If there’s one big takeaway from this year’s survey, it’s that it pays to haggle—and most of the survey respondents do. Seventy percent said they tried to negotiate a better deal at some point, and the overwhelming majority—80 percent—were able to get one or more perks, including a new or extended promotional rate and outright price cuts.
Only 38 percent of pay-TV subscribers were highly satisfied with their service, meaning they were “very” or “completely” happy with the offerings.
Armstrong, a smaller cable company that operates in Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, earned the second-place slot behind Google Fiber, in part due to favorable scores for technical support, reliability, and customer service.
Verizon and the two satellite-TV companies—AT&T’s DirecTV and Dish Network—also rated better than Cox Communications, Comcast, Spectrum, and Optimum.
Joining Spectrum and Optimum at the bottom of the ratings were CenturyLink, SuddenLink Communications, Atlantic Broadband, Frontier Communications, and Mediacom, a perennial last-place finisher.
Nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents who have a bundled plan—TV, internet, and phone—said they got a special promotional price when they signed up. And 45 percent were still enjoying that rate when they answered our survey. So you might expect that respondents with bundled services feel like they’re getting a good deal.
But that’s not the case. Every company but one received the lowest score possible for value. Armstrong, the lone exception, was the only provider to earn a favorable mark for customer service as well.
The bundles from Spectrum, CenturyLink, Optimum, Windstream, Mediacom, and Frontier Communications were among the lowest-rated overall; all except for Optimum received the lowest marks possible for customer service, and Optimum’s still wasn’t favorable.
Cost could be a big factor behind responses, since survey respondents paid a median price of $186 a month for their triple-play bundles. And the median price for the bundles offered by the three bigger cable companies—Comcast, Cox, and Optimum—was closer to $200 a month.