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Posted: 1:38 p.m. Thursday, June 23, 2011

Does bundling make sense for your wallet?



Bundling of pay TV, home phone service and Internet service may not be pushed as heavily as it once was, but I still want to issue a warning about the dangers of these package deals for your wallet.

The practice of bundling handcuffs you to the phone and cable companies that push these things. One of the chief dangers is that if you dump any one service in the bundle, the price on the other services can go crazy.

We're in an era where the phone companies are feeling threatened on two fronts. You have more amd more people cutting the cord to go cellular, plus the DSL they offer for Internet service is inferior to cable modem or the offering from Verizon FiOS.

Pay TV providers, meanwhile, are under direct threat from Roku, Netflix, Hulu and the various networks that offer some programming for free or cheap online. (In fact, pay TV may be the weakest link in any bundle because there are so many programming alternatives.)

So bundling is really a position of weakness for companies, not one of strength. You have problems with pricing. Each individual service has its own weakness, like the TV service. And finally, you often are required to sign a contract that makes you a prisoner when technology moves on in the marketplace.

As for who bundling is actually good for, well, there's somebody out there, I'm sure. But my general advice is run away from those bundle offers!

One final warning: If you get the pitch for any AT&T bundle or a U-Verse bundle, go to a search engine and put in "ripped off by AT&T bundle or UVerse" or something similar. You'll have enough reading to stay busy for a few years! As you'll see, the marketing offers don't sync up with the prices you're actually charged.

Until AT&T gets its act together, I'd be careful doing any business with them on any offer until and unless you have it in writing.