Optimum Review – 2020

Optimum’s coverage area is very small. It covers only four states. However, they are densely populated: Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Pros of Optimum

  • Faster than DSL
  • Network is partially fiber optic
  • Free access to Wi-Fi hotspots around the Altice service area for home subscribers
  • Offers bundles that include internet, TV, and/or telephone service
  • No contracts
  • No data caps
  • Offers a discounted package to low-income households

Cons of Optimum

  • Corporate changes mean that rates and service quality are liable to change suddenly

Table of Contents

Overview of Optimum Internet Services

Optimum operates a cable TV service. As with all cable TV companies in North America, the company exploited new markets to gain extra value from its investment in its cable network and added internet and telephone services to its activities.

Optimum’s coverage area is very small. It covers only four states. However, they are densely populated: Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Optimum’s cables pass by the homes of 12.4 million people, making it the fourth-largest service area by population in the United States.

The name Optimum is actually a brand and not a company. The business behind the brand was Cablevision and some market analysts referred to the cable TV operation as “Optimum by Cablevision.” In 2016, Cablevision was taken over by Dutch telecoms conglomerate, Altice. The European operator had already established a presence in North America by buying Suddenlink in 2015.

Today both Optimum and Suddenlink are in a branding transition to merge their identities into a single unit, called Altice USA. For the time being, the former Cablevision operation is known as “Optimum by Altice.” The Suddenlink’s service area is larger than that of Optimum but it has a smaller population. The combined area of operations of Altice USA’s two divisions makes it the fourth-largest cable internet service provider in the USA.

Some Points About Optimum

The physical network of Optimum is what is called a “hybrid fiber-coaxial” system (HFC). The cable that connects the internet access point at the Optimum offices to each neighborhood junction is laid with fiber-optics. This medium is very fast and transmits data as a light pulse that is beamed through a glass strand.

Fiber optic cables are very expensive and so Optimum like most US cable TV companies only uses it for the trunk routes that carry bulk traffic. The final stretch from the exchange to each house uses coaxial cable, which is cheaper but has less capacity than fiber-optics. However, as this last hop only needs to carry the traffic of one home, the demands on the cable are not that great.

HFC networks offer very good value for money. They provide faster speeds than traditional all-coaxial networks and much better speeds than DSL services that transmit data over copper wire telephone networks.

Optimum has created a network of Wi-Fi hotspots in public places around its area of operations. Subscribers to Optimum home internet packages are entitled to use these hotspots free of charge.

In December 2018, the Federal Communications Commission published its Report on Consumer Fixed Broadband Performance in the United States. As part of this investigation, the FCC measured the speeds that each major ISP in the USA really provided at peak times in comparison with that company’s advertised speeds. Optimum came out well from the exercise. The FCC discovered that Optimum delivers higher speeds than the average for the industry and came pretty close to the speeds that its publicity promised.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) publishes an annual survey on customer approval ratings for a range of telecommunications service providers. This is called the ACSI Telecommunications Report and its 2019 edition, it ranks the USA’s major ISP by customer satisfaction ratings, expressed as percentages. In 2019, Optimum scored a 63% satisfaction rating, which placed it as the fourth most pleasing ISP in the USA. The 2018 score for the service was 64% in 2018, which made it the third-best service that year, according to the opinions of its customers.

The company runs a discounted access plan for low-income households.

As it merges its two operating companies into one entity, Altice is likely to try to harmonize the tariffs of the two service providers. Such mergers often upset existing customers when they see their deals being reneged on in the interests of uniformity. For this reason, the satisfaction rating of Altice USA could fall in the next few years in terms of the opinions of its existing customers.

Optimum Plans

Here is a selection of Optimum’s internet-only plans.

 

Plan Download Speed Minimum Term Data Cap
Optimum 200 200 Mbps None None
Optimum 300 300 Mbps None None
Optimum 400 400 Mbps None None
Altice Advantage Internet 30 Mbps None None

Although Optimum has no data usage limits, its service agreement states that the company will take action against customers whose data throughput exceeds “reasonable use.”

Each customer does sign a contract for the service. However, Optimum contracts do not specify minimum service periods. There are no early termination fees (ETFs). The Optimum price promise guarantees that the price a customer starts on will not change for the duration of the agreement.

New customers that have to pay an early termination fee to leave their current internet service and sign up with Optimum qualify for an ETF compensation payment of up to $100.

Optimum Pricing Overview

The table below shows a selection of Optimum’s internet service plans and their prices.

 

Plan Price per Month Setup Cost Equipment Cost/Month Other Monthly Charges
Optimum 200 $44.99 $0 $10 $3.50
Optimum 300 $54.99 $0 $10 $3.50
Optimum 400 $64.99 $0 $10 $3.50
Altice Advantage Internet $14.99 $0 $0 $3.50

All prices are all subject to tax.

Optimum offers a discounted service to low-income households. This is the Altice Advantage Internet plan listed in the two tables above. Subscribers to the plan also get access to the Optimum Wi-Fi hotspot network, but with a limit on the hours of usage of those hotspots per month. Household qualify for the plan if they meet one of the following criteria:

 

  • Eligible for or participates in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  • New York City resident and attends a New York City public school
  • Eligible for or receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and 65 years of age or older
  • Veteran receiving state or federal public assistance

 

It is possible to avoid the equipment fee if you already have your own modem. Subscribers to the Altice Advantage Internet plan get modem rental included in their internet charge.

The extra monthly charge of $3.50 is a compulsory Network Enhancement Fee. The Optimum website doesn’t explain the purpose of that charge.

Optimum also offers bundles for TV, internet and landline telephone combinations.

All plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Optimum Customer Service

The Optimum website includes a self-service portal where each user can check on bills and make payments. The Support section of the site includes a guided troubleshooter and a searchable knowledge base that enables customers to solve their own problems. Account help and technical assistance can also be reached on the site through a live chat system.

Specialist technicians can also be reached by email and the company maintains a helpline for customers.

A great customer service access option offered by Optimum is the company’s network of brick-and-mortar stores that are dotted around its service area. Customers can go to the store to speak to a customer service assistance, get technical help, or take in broken equipment for repair or replacement.

Choosing Optimum Plans

Optimum has a good reputation and provides a reliable, fast, and reasonably priced internet service. The customers of Optimum rank it highly and generally give the internet provider high satisfaction scores.

The company’s internet plans are well structured and easy to understand. There aren’t many hidden charges other than the unexplained Network Enhancement Fee. Optimum doesn’t need to trap its customers with minimum service periods and it helps new customers to get out their current commitments by paying their early termination fees for them.

Optimum’s takeover by Altice heralds a bright future. The merger with Suddenlink’s network will create economies of scale, freeing up budget for network renovation, innovation, and service enhancements. The greater size of Altice USA promises an improvement in the service standard of Optimum, which is already high and well-regarded.

The 30-day money-back guarantee offered by Optimum enables new customers to allay fears and the trepidation of committing to an unknown new experience. The lack of a lock-in makes it easier to walk away should the service disappoint.

Check out the Optimum bundles that include entertainment packages and landline telephone service to get better deals. Bundles generally work out cheaper than paying for each of those three services individually on separate contracts.