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Comcast

Thanks to cord cutters like us, times are tough over at Comcast. The cable giant, like the rest of the major industry players, is having a tough time fending off cord cutting competitors like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go.

In response, Comcast is really marketing their “double play” packages, which combine Comcast internet plans with cable packages. Increasingly, Comcast is offering packages that include different numbers of channels. That's not a bad idea: after all, the inability to get channels   la carte is one of the primary reasons people switch to cord cutting competitors. With these packages, Comcast is taking a step towards the   la carte model, albeit with smaller package deals instead of individual channel subscriptions. Of course, that may not be the whole story – cynics point out that these smaller packages could keep Comcast's subscriber numbers artificially high.

But we don't care about Comcast's motives; we care about ours. And our motivation is simple: we want the most content for the lowest price possible. With those priorities in mind, how does Comcast's service stack up? Let's take a look at a few packages.

Note: these prices reflect what's available in my own local Comcast market. They may not be exactly the same everywhere, but they should give you a good idea of what Comcast generally charges. Take a look at the “A word about our methods” section down there at the bottom for more details.

Digital Economy & Economy Plus Internet

Digital Economy Package

This is Comcast Xfinity's cheapest TV package, and it comes with 45 channels. But look at that internet speed: just 3 mbps! The best thing you can say about this deal is that it is a genuine month-to-month agreement. As we'll see with some of the more complex deals, that's a rarity.

Starter XF Double Play

Starter XF Double Play

For a big jump in price (all the way up to $89.99), we can now get 140 channels, including all of the major sports networks, which is nice. The big boost comes on the internet side, where we now have 50 mbps. But the problem with this one is that “for 12 months” stipulation on the pricing. The fine print reveals that we'll be paying full price for the Comcast service ($119.94 to $126.94, depending on where you live) plus an extra $19.99/month and $4.99/month if you want to keep HBO and Streampix, respectively. There is a version available without a 2-year agreement, but that will cost you $99.99/month instead.

Starter XF Double Play

Starter XF Double Play

Hey, it's the same package, but with more internet and a lower price tag! If there's one clue to the fact that Comcast's deals are too good to be true, it's their inconsistent pricing. Once again, you're looking at a price tag that goes up after 12 months. The fine print offers the same vague information (price varies by location!), but Comcast's 105 mbps internet is also available as a standalone service for $79.95 (starting price), so it seems reasonable to expect the internet portion of the bundle alone to cost at least that much after the price increase. With the charges for HBO and the increase to the cable price, the price for this one after 12 months promises to be nearly double the starting rate.

Preferred XF Double Play

Preferred XF Double Play

Here's the package Comcast really wishes you'd buy. 220 glorious channels, all for the low, low price of $89.99. Of course, here we go again: after 12 months the service bumps up to $134.95 to 144.94, depending on your region. HBO starts to cost extra ($19.99), as does Streampix and the DVR. If you keep all the extras, your bill will roughly double to around $180.

Comcast Internet Plans

For comparison, here's a quick rundown of some different Comcast internet plans. We'll get into this a big more in a second, but the gist of it is that most of these prices aren't that much lower than the special deal prices for the cable plus internet deals:

Comcast Internet Packages

It's worth noting that Comcast internet prices don't seem to have the same price hikes as Comcast package prices do. Comcast internet speeds vary, but the two above are the only ones that are available in our area without having a Comcast voice or cable package. The “Economy Plus” Comcast internet deal (that's the 3 mbps one) costs $39.99, but is only available as an add-on to a voice or cable package.

Conclusions

Generally, these plans aren't a great deal. In every case but one, Comcast raises the price of the deal in the second year of your contract. Even the smallest TV package will cost you $30/month more than an internet-only deal. That's enough to pay for Netflix and HBO Go. And that lowest deal has 3 mbps internet, which Comcast describes as being “ideal for low usage on 1 device.”

The 50 and 105 mbps deals look better at first: 50 mbps internet and 105 mbps internet cost $66.95 and $79.95, respectively, on their own. But the individual internet pricing remains constant, while the bundle deals skyrocket. What looks like $15 extra a month turns into $70/month more in the second year, or about $1,000 over the life of the two-year deal.

There are areas in which Comcast offers a smaller 10-channel package; that package might be an understandable temptation in areas where over-the-air television isn't available (in this case, reattaching the cord would give you local news and NFL football without forcing you to shell out for more channels). But the options available in the area we looked at are just awful: the only partial cable packages are paired with painfully slow internet, and the larger ones come with massive price increases after year one. Comcast internet prices aren't great, but they're not nearly as bad as the fees for these package deals.

A word about our methods

Of course, we know that this piece isn't the authoritative account of Comcast Xfinity pricing. Comcast will only let you search for pricing after you create an account and log in. That's because their pricing varies based on your location. Even the types of packages that they offer aren't always consistent from spot to spot: for instance, we didn't see an option to get just 10 channels, which would have been intriguing as a substitute for an antenna in areas that don't have good over-the-air reception.

As a result, these prices aren't something that you should use to guide your specific purchase decisions. This is just a gleefully unscientific little look at what it would look like to get Comcast where I currently live (the eastern edge Washington State).

We're making a general statement here about plan prices, but this isn't intended to be a substitute for your own research. Be sure to check your local provider's prices carefully, and never skip the fine print: as we showed above, it can be the most important part of the deal.

Class participation

If you live in an area that's served by Comcast, we'd love to see what kind of offers you get! Check out prices for partial cable packages in your local area by logging on to Comcast's website. Write down the price or take a screenshot for us, and then post it in the comments! We're curious to see if Comcast offers better deals than this somewhere else in the country. For their sake, we sure hope so.

10 thoughts on “Are Comcast’s “Double Play” Internet Plus TV Packages a Good Deal for Cord Cutters?

  1. Avatar Karen Thompson says:

    I’ll kick off this conversation! I have been a CenturyLink customer for years, and always “cord free” – in other words, I have never paid for cable a day in my life. Not traditionally a TV watcher, except favorite shows that either came over the air (pre-streaming days), or as is true today – I pay for Netflix, Hulu, and rent movies occasionally via iTunes. I moved back to an old neighborhood to realize CenturyLink is STILL only selling 3 Mbps. Having moved from an area with 10 Mbps I can’t imagine getting slower speeds. So I’ve decided to sign up with Comcast. Because I have a cloud backup service and manage photos via the cloud I opted for the 75 Mbps Internet plan ($49.99). In addition, I caved in and bought, for an additional $10 a month a “bundle” which includes HBO. It will be installed 6 days from today (Feb 19), so I don’t know what all is included. The online sales person said basic channels are also part of the deal, I think. I assumed I would get the same offerings as HBO GO, which I could have gotten through my Apple TV for $15. I thought the $10 would be a good deal if the product and access to it is similar, but we’ll see. I’m hearing it may not be the same. Another bonus of Comcast/XFINITY is you can access Wi-Fi hotspots in your neighborhood (in some areas) – so I’ve been able to use that until I get hooked up next Friday. BUT. I’ve also learned this Wi-Fi comes from neighbors who rent the Comcast router. That doesn’t seem so great – but I will avoid it because I’ve purchased my own router. I’ll let you know how it goes, and whether it’s worth it or not – but it seems like a great deal so far because I have been paying CenturyLink $90 a month for 10 Mbps and a landline for the past several months, and service that is highly variable, with unacceptable ping rates. I look forward to the faster service and smaller bill (realizing it will increase in a year).

    1. Avatar HEATH BETTAG says:

      Comcast made me an offer, I accepted and when the equipment arrived it did not work, after several days they finally got it working but were charging me more but offering less. When I got mad that they were up-sellin me crappy service I decided to go back to my original plan they that my original plan was no longer available at that price so all in all I ended up having to pay for same crappy service but at a higher rate. Comcast/Infiniti is junk and hands down the most unethical Corp I have ever dealt with. #Comcast #cc2arms

  2. Avatar Peter says:

    The terms “Comcasr” and “great deal” are mutually exclusive, especially in areas of the country where Comcast really jacks up the price.

    My $89 “great deal” — not including equipment rental, taxes, and hidden fees — ballooned to $165 a month after a year. Worse, the Comcast DVR was rebooting nearly every night, often while I was recording movies, and Comcast’s internet speeds were never as fast as advertised.

    I found a lower cost Internet provider, gave Comcast the boot, and now stream all my entertainment.

    1. Avatar Cres Cole says:

      I’m glad that you replied about a Comcast deal. May I ask the name or names of some lower cost competitors and what you think of them?

  3. Avatar Donna Trainer says:

    We have had ATT Uverse for the last several years and watched the price creep up and up. We had almost decided to cut the cable in favor of a Netflix/Sling TV/Amazon Prime combination. Unfortunately, when we checked on “unlimited data” packages (the constant streaming worries me and I didn’t want to turn into a data management freak like I have to be on our cell plan with two kids who constantly Snapchat and stream videos), the unlimited data options and internet speeds that we desire pushed the cost back up to a point that it made sense to bundle. ATT was going to offer me BASIC (and it was bare bones) cable and unlimited data for around 90 bucks a month. I could get basic with limited data for 60 bucks per month. My husband did a speed test on our ATT and it was running 18 Mbps. Comcast quoted me 110 for the “X1 Starter extreme Double” package. With that I get 300 Mbps and many of the channels that I enjoy (USA, Lifetime, Discovery, Sports Channels, News Channels). My husband did a test on the speed because I thought it was impossible to jump that much. The test showed 355 Mbps on download. So far we are very happy with it but we will continue to monitor the download speeds. We have not seen any digital breakup of Netflix or other streaming services as of yet.

  4. Avatar Guest says:

    I appreciate your site as a general reference, but times have never been “tough” at Comcast: over 90% of your bill is pure profit and nothing from Comcast is a “good deal.” The Comcast data caps have nothing to do with capacity issues or the cost of providing the service: if they cannot get at least 50 bucks a month out of you for TV, they will raise the price of your internet service. Comcast is a criminal enterprise which bribes politicians to protect their rates & rackets. I cut the cord a long time ago and do not miss it. All of the mainstream broadcast news is heavily censored and most of the stuff on cable TV is really a waste of time. I don’t want a bundle or package of anything: We need to focus on building alternative ISPs and fixing our broken political systems.

  5. Avatar MG says:

    Comcast offering of free Wi-Fi service and the claim it does not affect its customers is completely false. At some point all of this data has to be transmitted through connections that have data limits. When you allow these non-subscribers access to a point of service there is the possibility the data limit will be exceeded. Comcast speaks of bandwidth concerns and other matters but this absolutely says they are not doing there due diligence to correct or improve this matter. They continue exploiting their paying customers by allowing non paying users to add to the bandwidth and throughput problems when they login freely.

    1. Avatar PDX-IT-Girl says:

      What “non-paying customers” are you referring to? Are you referring to the Xfinity “hotspots” offered to existing Xfinity customers that use other customers’ rented modems as access points? Because from what I understand, that does not count against the access point subscriber’s data cap, but of course all data usage rides on the same nodes, same backbones, etc. But I think it would be nearly illegal to offer other customers use of data that goes against YOUR cap, and I know of no way that “non-paying customers” would be accessing anything.

      I really need to either buy a cable modem or just build a Faraday cage around mine. It’s slow enough as is. I had Wi-Fi turned off altogether (using an external enterprise router instead), so I wonder if mine is still acting as a hotspot.

      Can’t wait until I can ditch these criminals. I miss the glory days when local, independent ISPs were the norm, not national providers (I worked for quite a few local ISPs, and miss them greatly). We’ve got to find a fast last mile so we can bring them back!

  6. Avatar Eugene says:

    A truly helpful article for a newcomer to the US. Thank you very much.

  7. Avatar Ruth Boncorddo says:

    Just got a Comcast deal for Double Play for two years with Showtime for two years for $89.99 a month. Right now we have Dish for $120 and Comcast cable (only internet service in our area) for $85. Price will not change after a year and we get a $50 Visa card. We use to have Comcast so I guess they want us back. We were getting rid of DISH in a month after contract. And we just got an antenna because ABC was not on DISH any longer.

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