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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cable cutthroats

NEWTON

Verizon has entered the cable-TV market in Newton with the brio of a new kid expecting a schoolyard brawl.

The telecommunications giant recently signed a franchise agreement with the city that put it up against the two other longtime cable TV providers, Comcast and RCN. That's a good thing, the company insists.

“Competition always drives price,” said Verizon spokesman Phil Santoro.

Verizon is offering a bundled package called Triple Play costing $105 per month. For that, you get unlimited local, regional, and long-distance phone service, high-speed internet access, and cable TV with on-demand programming.

So ... Comcast now has a promotional offer, also dubbed Triple Play, with a phone-TV-internet bundle for only $99 per month for first-time cable buyers. Originality is obviously not the cable industry's strong suit. RCN also has a phone-TV-internet promotion, at only $89.95 per month.

Charges vary for such things as converter boxes and installation. If you factor in additional features -- faster Internet speed, premium channels, ; high-definition TV, pecialty cable stations (Brazilian soccer, anyone?) -- comparing plans is like shopping for drug insurance under Medicare.

Best advice: Check the company Websites and closely question their customer service agents. You may also find it pays to play one company off another. Ask for the "Customer Retention Department."

-- Connie Paige

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