News Column

Here are some ways to lower your cable bill

July 25, 2014

By David P. Willis, Asbury Park Press, N.J.



July 25--In a recent survey, Cablevision asked customer Janet D. Craggan for her opinion, and boy, did the Lakewood resident have something to say.

"I am very disappointed in your fees," Craggan said in an email she shared with Press on Your Side. Cable bills are too high and there's no other cable company serving her community. "This is a disgrace!"

It's unfair that she pays $159 a month for Optimum's package of television, telephone and high-speed Internet services when new customers get a $79.95 per month offer, she said. "Would you believe this is my second highest bill for the month," said Craggan, 66.

It's easy to identify with Craggan's outrage: nationwide, cable bills are on the rise. But there are some things she can do to try to lower her bill. We'll get to that in a moment.

Prices are rising

Let's look at what's going on with cable prices.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, the average price for expanded basic cable service was $66.41 as of Jan. 1, 2013, up 5.1 percent from a year earlier and compared to an annual increase of 1.6 percent in the Consumer Price Index. Add a few more cable channels and the average price rose to $77.05, up 4.2 percent, the FCC said.

Over the last 10 years, the average price for expanded basic cable has jumped more than 65 percent. And to be fair, the number of channels in the tier have skyrocketed 136 percent too. But do you really watch all of them?

Programming costs are driving up prices. For instance, ESPN charges cable companies $5 per subscriber. "If you are charging that much, you have to expect that cable is not going to be cheap when content licensing costs are very expensive," said Dan Rayburn, principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan, a consulting firm

And it all comes at a time when it's harder to find an alternative to your cable bill. Aereo, which piped over-the-air broadcast channels over the Internet to customers for a fee, recently turned itself off after it lost its fight with broadcasters before the U.S. Supreme Court.

You can still sign up for Hulu or Netflix to watch some of your programs. All of these options require a high-speed Internet connection, the kind you need to buy from a cable company or Verizon. But have you checked out the movies available for streaming through Netflix? Dismal. (Press on Your Side is a fan of "House of Cards," though.)

Stuck with cable

Of course, for those who only want bare bones TV, an antenna installed on your roof or in the attic can do the trick.

But most of us are stuck with cable, Verizon or satellite TV if we want the content. "It is nearly impossible for most people to cut the cord," Rayburn said.

Some tips

So how can you lessen the hole it digs in your wallet? Press on Your Side asked Rayburn and telecommunications consultant Jeff Kagan for some help.

--Take a long look at your cable bill and ask yourself some questions. "Do you have the right plan?" Rayburn said. "Are you paying for something you can't use?"

Maybe there's a package of sports channels that you never watch. Do you have more digital video recorder boxes than you need? Equipment costs can add to your bill.

What type of programs do you watch? How big is your television screen? Do you really need high-definition cable service?

"They have to figure out what is best for them," Rayburn said.

--Just ask. "Just simply call your cable company and you want to save money," Kagan said. "It is now way too much." Kagan said.

Look at the prices of competitors, such as Verizon or satellite television, and compare their offer to your cable bill. You might get this response when you bring it up: "You have been a good customer for a long time. We'll take $10 off your bill every month," Rayburn said.

How much can you save? Depending on how good of a customer you are, and how many other services you buy, you can save $10 to $40 a month, Kagan figures. "They charge everybody full price unless you ask."

--And if they say, no? "Wait a few minutes and call again," Kagan said. "Maybe you will get another person who feels better about it." Of course, there are no guarantees.

--Be nice. Don't be confrontational. Would you help someone who is yelling at you save money?

"You just take a please-let-me-save-some-money approach," Kagan said. "They don't want to lose customers."

Do you have a consumer problem that needs solving? Contact David P. Willis at 732-643-4042, pressonyourside@ app.com or facebook.com/ dpwillis732.

___

(c)2014 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.)

Visit the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) at www.app.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)


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