Friday, January 20, 2012

LUS & Cox Comparison Pricing

This morning the Advertiser ran a follow up piece to yesterday's article that headlined LUS' video price increases. Yesterday's piece, I argued, focused on the least important news of the day and also missed the fact that Cox had announced a broader price increase earlier without eliciting front page treatment. (I had discussed the more consequential NCTC news I felt was underemphasized in a post the day before.) Today's article, which also ran above the fold on the front page brought Cox's price increases to the attention of the Advertiser's readers. Both companies argued the same basic point—that their price increases were due to increased prices charged by the channel providers. It's a good story, and well worth the click. (The Advocate and LPF also covered the story of Cox's across the board price increases.)

The author was asked for a comparison of the new prices in the comments on yesterday's article and made a stab at working out the video pricing there. But not much of that work made it into today's piece which contented itself with pointing out (correctly) how hard it is to compare the two and to comparing the prices Cox and LUS would charge for a package of the four premium channels. Unfortunately that particular comparison is not very useful since neither company will sell a customer those channels without attaching them to one of their larger packages. But I did think that a more complete comparison would be both interesting and useful.

So, I decided I'd try and work out a rough comparison. It was a chore. Persac at the Advertiser had it right when he said:
Comparing the LUS Fiber's rates to Cox's rates, however, isn't as simple as one may think. The services included in the packages the companies offer are not always comparable, and the two businesses charge customers differently for some services.
The offerings aren't always comparable. For example Cox offers some internet speeds that are a tenth of the lowest LUS speed — the two are just not in the same ballpark; on the other hand LUS Fiber offers a 100 Mbps internet tier that is twice as fast as Cox's top speed...comparing the pricing on those radically different speeds just doesn't make sense. The same services can be sold separately by one company but combined into a single offering by another. For example Cox offers its phone additions (like call waiting) as part of large packages. LUS allows subscribers to choose a la carte. Cox offers bundles that give an overall discount on packages of products. LUS has a single price regardless of the combination of services that you buy.

What I've done is compare what is comparable and, where possible, construct roughly parallel packages so that a potential buyer can get a sense of how the prices of the two companies compare where the offerings can be aligned. Where the offerings could not be made comparable I eliminated them from consideration. The simplified spreadsheet immediately below is the result.

The Gist
I'll not keep you in suspense: LUS is consistently cheaper (see the price difference column). That shouldn't be surprising; that was LUS' original promise to the community. But there are still details here that might help some users trying to make a decision. For instance, LUS' advantage is greatest in its internet packages. I had to ignore the fact that Cox's upload speeds are radically lower than LUS' and if that matters to you my equating Cox's 50/5 plan with LUS 50/50 could seem misleading. On the other hand LUS' price advantage over Cox is smallest for its cable offerings. And Cox offers access to cable content from HBO Go on tablets and handheld devices. If that excites you enough the price difference won't deter you. In short, this is painting with a broad brush; the direction of difference on pricing where they are comparable is clear but other, real differences exist. If you'r trying to decide due diligence is your friend.

(And oh yes, AT&T still sells DSL-based internet and phone service...but I'm tired and couldn't reasonably recommend their services. Do be aware that AT&T's DSL is slow but cheap; if price is your main concern look there too.)


For those of you who want to dig in a little deeper...or are just masochists...I've also linked to the rougher but much more complete spreadsheet filled with the data that I used to decide which offerings were comparable. Those highlighted in light red are the categories that I decided fit well enough to include in the simplified chart. Looking at the differences and the ways that I thought about each category should allow you to decide whether or not I've succeeded in constructing fair comparisons. There are also links to the data I used embedded in the spreadsheet if you'd like to go back to the source. (For LUS' new video prices I used a sheet that I'd requested from LUS.)

It's a mess. You were warned:
LUS & Cox Pricing (Detailed)

UPDATE 1/21/2012: The Advertiser this morning runs its own front-page comparison of LUS Fiber and Cox's cable offerings.  Give it a look. The chart in printed version is more useful (IMHO) than the text. It's extraordinarily hard to describe in words the differences between the two companies' offerings.

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