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Enticements to bundle up
Qwest lowers cost of "triple play" packages. The former Baby Bell offers deals on phone, Internet and television service to take on rivals.
By Beth Potter, Staff Writer
Denver Post
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Telephone company Qwest started playing offense Monday, offering its "triple play" of unlimited long-distance and local calls, high-speed Internet and satellite-TV service for $96.97.

If a Qwest customer in Colorado, Minnesota or Washington wants to buy the package online, it's even cheaper - $91.97, or $15 lower than the previous $106.97 price, said Michael Dunne, a Qwest spokesman.

The former Baby Bell decided to drop prices to go head to head with national cable company Comcast Corp. and with Grand Junction-based Bresnan Communications, Dunne said.

Bresnan is adding 160 to 170 new phone customers a week, said Shawn Hogue, the cable company's regional vice president.  Bresnan's new customers are primarily former customers of Qwest.

"It's a competitive issue," Dunne said.

Qwest also decided to drop prices to woo former Adelphia customers in Colorado Springs, Washington and Minnesota, said Sarah Murphy, Qwest's consumer marketing director.  Comcast and Time Warner Cable are expected to take over the former Greenwood Village-based cable company's customers later this spring once the deal is complete, she said.

Customers in Qwest's other 11 mostly Western states will not get the "triple play" offer, Murphy said.

Qwest customers must sign up for a year of service to get the promotion, which lasts through July 15, Dunne said.  Customers can pay $99.97 to get a faster Internet speed of 5 megabits per second, or $96.97 for 1.5 megabits per second.

The faster Internet speed better handles video downloads.

"This is the beginning of this new revolution, and I don't know who is going to win," said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecommunication analyst based in Atlanta.  "I hope both sides win because that will keep prices low for everybody."

Comcast spokeswoman Cindy Parsons said the cable company is focused on value, including video-on-demand service, rather than price.  Comcast offers a $99 "triple play" bundle of service in some East Coast cities but not in Denver.  Here, a "triple play" bundle costs $109.97, including more digital cable channels and a $29.99 high-speed Internet promotion that ends at the end of the month, Parsons said.  Comcast's Internet costs are expected to increase at the beginning of April, bringing the bundle price up to $124.97.

"We're focused on the value war, and we're winning it," Parsons said.

Verizon dropped its "triple play" price to $85 in several states where it operates, said John Hodulik, a telecommunications analyst at UBS Bank in New York.  Verizon does not operate land lines in Colorado, although it offers wireless service here.

Bresnan Communications has spent $200 million to upgrade existing networks in parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana since it bought a small part of the AT&T Broadband service in 2002, Hogue said.  Bresnan focused on cable service until last year, when it rolled out phone service in the Grand Junction area.  It now has 28,000 phone customers, including 6,000 in Grand Junction, he said.

"(It's) an all-out war for the entire customer," Kagan said. "They're both realizing they have to market and attract the customers because they no longer capture a piece of the business. It's all or nothing."

Staff writer Beth Potter can be reached at 303-820-1503 or bpotter@denverpost.com.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_3622346