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Summary:

[qi:086] Want proof that competition will drive faster broadband speeds and lower prices? Try to negotiate a rate cut for your services, and learn for yourself why a duopoly won’t cut it when it comes to improving our nation’s broadband access, especially when providers can also […]

[qi:086] Want proof that competition will drive faster broadband speeds and lower prices? Try to negotiate a rate cut for your services, and learn for yourself why a duopoly won’t cut it when it comes to improving our nation’s broadband access, especially when providers can also cherry-pick where they roll out services.

Back in December, Alan Weinkrantz, a loyal reader of this blog, emailed to let me know he managed to get his AT&T bill practically cut in half by simply calling them up and threatening to take his business elsewhere. So in the spirit of saving money, I tried it myself. Time Warner Cable, my cable provider, basically laughed and told me to go ahead with AT&T’s plain DSL service offered in my area.

His plan didn’t work for me because I live in an area where there’s no comparable service, such as AT&T’s triple play U-verse offering, to switch to. My threats to drop my 7 Mbps downlink service for an AT&T DSL connection rang pretty hollow. Plus, I would then have to go to satellite for cable if I dropped Time Warner completely. Time Warner (was that a snicker I heard?) asked if I’d like to move to a lower tier instead.

Today the Wall Street Journal picked up Alan’s story (Go Alan!), as well as those of some other customers who were able to cut their bills as well. What the article doesn’t mention is that those customers likely had a decent alternative available when they planned their switch, or were willing to sacrifice speed for savings. So for those hoping to negotiate a cut in your comms bills, let me know how it goes. I’d like to know if you managed a discount, and whether or not there are credible alternatives to the service you currently use. My hunch is that only competition yields cost cuts, and folks stuck in the backwoods with no alternative but plain old DSL are hosed.

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  1. 100% correct Om. Maybe I wasn’t convincing enough but TW wouldn’t budge, knowing I’m sure that I had no leverage or alternative.

  2. If you really want the deal in those “less competitive” areas, you don’t ask for a lower price. I’ve been doing the following for 4 years now, giving me the highest speed broadband for $29.99/month (vs the $59.99 or whatever it is supposed to be):

    1) I call the “retention queue” and specifically tell them I’m calling to cancel my broadband.
    2) They generally ask why, at which point I tell them it’s because I’m switching to DSL and don’t need them anymore.
    3) At that point, I almost automatically get offered the lowest tier at a discount – which I reject and say I’d need a better deal, since I’ve already ordered the DSL and would have to cancel it.
    4) They usually come back with a 6 or 12 month special deal for the high-tier or some in between offer that requires a bit more conversation.

    You do have to be prepared to walk – but since they don’t cancel until the end of your billing period, if you call early in the billing period, you have some time.

    Having said all of that, I keep my phone, cable, and directv completely separate, which actually seems to be giving me more leverage at getting a lower price for each of them.

  3. I tried the same thing with TW here in Manhattan, and in response they offered me a slightly discounted rate if I would lock in for two years. FIOS is coming to Manhattan, and when it does, TW is going to have to work to keep it’s subscribers.

  4. Well for me it is easy.

    I decided that I really didn’t need TV at all. I have better things to do with my time. The TV shows that are any good end up on DVD. Using Netflix I just spend a weekend on a marathon viewing session and then spend the rest of my life doing something better.

    As far as phone service goes, my wife and I are about ready to cut the landline connection.

    That leaves internet — well Red Rock Coffeehouse in Mountain View is pretty excellent. And lots of socializing possibilities. Considering our internet has been down for a week now (thanks Earthshit (Earthlink) ) — we just might cancel it as well.

    A lot of the things you think you “need” — you really don’t.

  5. Alan Weinkrantz Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Hey Stacey, thanks for the coverage. The idea not only applies to saving money at home, but in your business. I just got AT&T to cut my hosting bill by 50% simply by calling them and asking which plan I was on. THey told me that I was “qualified” to move to a new plan and so… I did.

    I also cut my business land lines and shifted to cell phones.

    Small businesses with 5 people or less can get “family” plans.

    Visit: http://www.3screens.net

  6. I’ve had Verizon DSL (rated: 3 mbps down/768 kbps up) and Comcast (rated: 6 mbps down/384 kbps up) at the same time (but I have FiOS now). The DSL was ALWAYS hitting about 3 mbps any time of day, any day of the week; Comcast was ALWAYS slower than my DSL from mid-to-late afternoon until late evening. So, I’d take the “half-speed” DSL over cable (for half the price) any day–those “rated” speeds don’t tell the whole story. (Now, FiOS is both faster and cheaper than Comcast in my area.)

    Reliable VoIP (from an independent provider) is cheaper (even free–GrandCentral/Gizmo).

    TV? OTA (digital) & Hulu & many other online sources (free streaming) as well as DVD (rental & on-sale purchases). (Or you could *upgrade* to satellite, usually cheaper for the same channels/packages.) Money & time savings. (I’ll never pay for channels that include commercials.)

  7. @ Cheapskate – I’ve tried that and they didn’t bite.

  8. @austinandrew — so cancel cable and discover life without TV.

  9. Oh please. Moving to save $20 a month (the effective discount you’d achieve through geography) is silly.

    Its true, that you need always to negotiate your rates, at least once a year, and that with only two sellers, you will only achieve so much. But in our neck of the woods, with only two, we always get a discount of about $20 over the regular rates by opting to “cancel” our service. Retention is always willing to help.

    (Our current DSL rate is below $12/month on annual contract, while the standard rate is $25.)

    Time Warner is a cable company, so they’re a little more difficult. They won’t yield much on price, but will give you free bundled upgrades. Since we don’t need their other offerings, our best rate was $19.95 for RR Lite, which looks like its going to $26.95 shortly.

  10. Hmm.
    Here cable is 6Mpbs down,1Mpbs up for $57.95, or DSL 6Mpbs down, 768kbps up for $35.00.

    If comparable service is a point, “old DSL” has some leverage here one can use to get a deal (e.g, the $34.99 promotional price) from the cableco.

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