As a residential customer, you used to be lucky just to have access to broadband Internet access from any one provider. Now, many households can choose from a few different companies.
Two of the largest providers are Comcast, which now brands its services as Xfinity, and Verizon, which uses a product called FiOS. Both companies offer bundles that provide television programming, Internet access, and residential telephone services – the more services you purchase, the more of a discount they’ll give.
At first glance, both services may seem pretty much the same, even though each company touts its advantages as significantly better than the other’s. So which company truly offers the better deal for cable customers?
Compare them based on these five key factors: bundled pricing, television, Internet, telephone, and overall service.
Comcast has been a fixture in the cable market for a long time. With recent mergers and acquisitions, they now offer service in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
Comcast uses traditional cable technology for Internet, voice, and high-definition digital television service, yet the company has recently undergone a major re-branding by changing the name of its service to Xfinity. Xfinity is the same “Triple Play” service the company used to offer.
- Bundled Pricing. Comcast advertises its Triple Play program with its introductory rate of $99 per month for the first year. The price goes up to $129 per month after that. They also offer incentives for new customers in the form of prepaid Visa cards with a value between $100 and $250. Depending on your local area, you may also have access to other promotions, like free premium channels for a limited time. You’ll have to sign a two-year contract, and other packages are available with more television channels and faster Internet access speeds. Keep in mind that pricing will vary by area, so be sure to check the pricing and promotional discounts that are specific to your city or town.
- Television. The basic television package in their Triple Play bundle comes with more than 80 channels, including CNN, ESPN, and MTV. Outside of the Triple Play package, Comcast’s television service normally sells for $29.95 for the first six months and $49.95 for the following 18 months with a two-year contract.
- Internet. Triple Play includes Comcast’s “Performance” tier of Internet service, which they advertise as “up to 15Mbps,” which is certainly fast enough for conventional residential service. Outside of the Triple Play package, this service starts at $29.95 a month for the first six months and costs $34.95 per month after that.
- Telephone. The standard bundle includes their “Unlimited Voice” package, which includes free calls within the United States and Canada, voicemail, and most telephone feature options like caller ID, call waiting, and three-way calling. This service requires a broadband Internet connection, and the price for both will vary based on your location. Currently, Comcast is advertising $19.95 for the first six months.
- Service. Comcast has some bad marks when it comes to their overall customer service reputation. In fact, they often exemplify many of the negative stereotypes associated with cable companies. They’re often unable to keep scheduled appointments, and they have long waits for customer service on the phone. That service leaves customers with an unsatisfactory result. However, Comcast offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, which may make you more comfortable at least giving them a chance. Comcast has also been known to have outages and spotty service in some areas of the country, so do some research to make sure it is reliable in your area.
FiOS is a relatively new fiber optics communication network from Verizon. Fiber optic technology has been the backbone of the Internet for a long time, but residential customers have only had a chance to use it for a few years.
Verizon has been slowly rolling out this service, but it is not available in all areas yet.
- Bundled Pricing. The basic FiOS bundle is also referred to as a Triple Play package. It includes television, Internet, and telephone service. It undercuts Comcast’s Xfinity offer by starting at an introductory rate of $79.99 per month. This price is only valid for the first year of service, but you don’t have to sign a contract, so you’re not obligated to the more expensive second year. Premium channels and more features are available for a higher price. As always, make sure you research the pricing and promotional offers in your area, because specific pricing will vary depending on where you live.
- Television. Verizon offers more than 195 channels in their basic services as well as an On Demand library of thousands of individual programs and 47 music-only channels. This plan by itself costs $64.95, with more channels offered for higher priced plans.
- Internet. Verizon advertises its service as 15/5 Mbps, which means that downloads can occur at speeds up to 15 Mbps, while uploads run at only 5 Mbps. As a residential user, you shouldn’t notice much of a problem with the slower upload speeds. On its own, this plan costs $49.95 per month.
- Voice. FiOS includes digital home telephone service with unlimited local and nationwide calling. Like Comcast’s service, Verizon includes most telephone features as well as calls to Canada at no additional cost. The voice service relies on a FiOS Internet connection and is not available by itself. A bundle including phone and Internet is $69.99 per month, $20 more than Internet service on its own.
- Service. So far, Verizon customers seem to really enjoy this product. The FiOS service has received glowing reviews from industry analysts and trade publications. In fact, Consumer Reports recently gave its top score to Verizon FiOS for its television and Internet services. FiOs is listed as the best option for any area where service is available. Only AT&T’s U-verse service received a similar rating. Still, plenty of people report some difficult installation experiences with this new type of connection.
From a technical standpoint, Verizon’s FiOS service is more advanced. Fiber optic technology has an inherently higher capacity, and most homes will likely eventually use it. FiOS picture quality is better than Comcast’s, and the Verizon plan costs less and comes with more channels.
By offering the service without a contract, Verizon gives customers the freedom to cancel this service at any time. Along with that freedom comes the power to renegotiate a better deal every year. FiOS is, however, fairly new, which means the service can be prone to outages, and you may have to do some troubleshooting until it becomes more mainstream.
Comcast comes in second for having a higher price, requiring a contract, and for offering a lower level of television service. Comcast’s weak reputation for customer service does not help them either. They are, however, more prevalent, and one of their biggest advantages is that no matter where you live, you have a good chance at having access to their service.
As for the overall quality of the Internet and phone service, both companies continue to receive mixed reviews depending on location.
The real winner from Verizon’s foray into the cable market is you, because you have new options and more competition. This means that service and technology should get a big boost, while prices start falling. If you live somewhere where both providers are available, you now have more negotiating power and you can get a better deal from both companies, which are fighting for market share and are willing to do whatever is needed to entice new customers. You should be able to negotiate lower prices, more content, and even free premium services.
Which do you think is better, Comcast Xfinity or Verizon FiOS?