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A Detailed Comparison of How Fios and Optimum Perform for Home Internet Service
Verizon vs Optimum
September 8, 2020
The biggest difference between Fios and Optimum is that Fios is fiber, while Optimum is cable. Fiber generally offers better speeds and less latency (lag), but comes at a slightly higher price.
Verizon Fios is the premium option, although their budget options aren’t bad either. Fios generally costs more to install and comes with a higher monthly bill for top-shelf speeds in the “gigabit” range. Verizon’s plans are all contract-free.
Consider them if you work from home, want to stream on a 4k screen, are a serious gamer, or simply want the best upload speeds on the home Internet market.
Optimum Online from Cablevision is the middle-grade option. Their speeds are more than enough for the average household, and their service comes with easy installation and budget pricing.
Something that distinguishes Optimum is that they offer excellent month-to-month plans, which is a huge bonus for temporary residents or customers who just don’t want to feel locked in. Consider them if you care more about TV than Internet speed, want no-strings monthly billing, or are a short-term resident who needs flexible service.
The biggest difference between Fios and Optimum Online is their network technology. Fios is 100% fiber, while Optimum uses a hybrid fiber-coaxial cable network.
Fiber networks are designed for digital data, while cable networks were originally designed to carry cable TV signal. Both work for digital data, but fiber generally works better.
The big performance differences come down to upload speed and latency. Fiber generally outperforms cable in both categories.
Upload speed refers to how fast your connection can transmit data from your home network to a remote server. This speed matters most for activities like Skyping, uploading YouTube videos, and streaming on Twitch, where you are “broadcasting” as well as “receiving.”
Cable networks like optimum generally max out around 35 Mbps for uploads, even for faster plans where the download speed is several times higher. This is because coaxial cables were designed to move data one way (towards the customer) for the most part. Additionally, the average Internet user downloads much more than they upload, and won’t notice the speed difference.
Latency is the term for “lag,” like when a long-distance phone call feels out of sync. Latency matters most for gaming and video conferencing, which is why we recommend Fios for gamers and home offices.
Another thing Optimum Online and Verizon Fios have in common is a small coverage area. Both carriers fall under the “boutique” category of above-average service in a relatively small service area. Currently, the only overlap is in the Tri-state area — mainly New York.
Speed is the metric where Verizon Fios is hard to beat. While both providers have budget plans in the 50–100 Mbps download range, Fios owns the speed charts because of its fiber to the home infrastructure.
Speeds above are based on 21,058,966 speed tests over the trailing 12 months.
Verizon took a big gamble investing in new fiber infrastructure. It’s a bet that paid off when the cord-cutting phenomena (AKA Netflix, Hulu, Sling) stormed the market — leaving traditional cable providers to play catch-up. Fiber is also future-proofed for future bandwidth-intensive technologies like 4k TV screens and smart homes that are already entering the mainstream market.
Verizon often advertises their top speed Internet plans as “gigabit,” but they actually fall short of 1,000 Mbps (1 Gigabit/sec) in most cases. That said, download speeds over 800 Mbps are still nearly 8x what you get from Cablevision, and more than 20x their maximum upload speed.
Optimum Online and Verizon Fios both do better than average when it comes to customer service. Because they both serve smaller areas, they tend to give more personalized service than some other large Internet providers, although they’ve both had some PR scares in the past.
Fios, for example, was recently the subject of a lawsuit from the state of New York over their alleged failure to build out Fios service as promised in a contract with the city. Verizon has stated that the slow expansion is largely due to difficulty gaining access to buildings from non-compliant landlords.
Optimum also got a bit of bad press for using the “free” routers packaged with their plans as hubs in their public Wi-Fi network. Comcast was under fire for a similar practice recently, although they made it possible for customers to turn off the public Wi-Fi feature.
The process for installing and setting up Fios is a bit quirky since the equipment for fiber is different from traditional cable or DSL and has to be installed from scratch. Because of this, it often takes longer and you might have to wait a few days for a technician to be available.
Optimum is also quirky, in that they provide separate modem/router units rather than the combo “gateway” unit favored by larger cable providers. That said, having a dedicated modem and router is actually a good feature for customers who want to enhance their home network.
Fios can take anywhere from 2–8 hours to install the ONT box and wiring needed within your home. Definitely set aside a full day to be available for the technician appointment. There is usually a $99 fee for installation, although this fee is waived for customers who order Verizon Fios online.
If you just want service as fast as possible, it’s likely you can install Optimum yourself with a self-install kit. This is just a question of hooking the modem and router up to the cable jack in your house and having an Optimum rep talk you through activation over the phone.
Verizon Fios encourages customers to use their default gateway device, the Fios Quantum Gateway router, for a fee of $15/month. This rental fee is waived for customers who purchase the Fios Gigabit Connection. They also offer the option to purchase the router outright, although you might find a better price from a third-party retailer. (Just keep in mind that you get what you pay for.)
If you want to save the monthly fee and use your own router that isn’t a Verizon router, you’ll have to ask them to switch your ONT (Optical Network Terminal) box to ethernet and run an ethernet wire to your router. This can be tricky if it’s a long trip between your ONT and your living room — but likely worth it if you want to use a fancier third-party router. More information on this is available in our Verizon Fios review.
Optimum Online charges a $5/month fee for their standard modem. They include a high-speed router for free, although it will double as a public Wi-Fi hotspot. While the public network is separate from your personal one, this practice has raised security concerns for some customers.
Purchasing your own router for Optimum will save you money in the long run. Optimum provides information on compatible models on their site.
Measuring up TV plans between Optimum and Fios is tricky since they’re so customizable.
If you’re a sports fan or just want the maximum amount of channels possible, definitely take a close look at Optimum. As of today, Optimum Online offers 620 channels, with 165 in HD.
For the “average” TV fan, we recommend Fios. They have fewer channels overall (~425, with 140 HD), but they offer flexible bundle options to make sure the channels you do want are available.
Optimum currently wins the DVR game, with an overall stronger device at a third of the cost. Verizon has three different DVR models, but their Multi-Room DVR – Premium model, which is the most comparable to Optimum’s DVR, is pricey at $30/month, while Optimum only charges $10.99/month. The main catch with Optimum is that they charge an extra $16 for advanced DVR functionality, but this still comes out to ~$27/month which saves you around $3 compared to Fios.
The Fios Multi-Room DVR – Premium maxes out at 200 hours of HD recording across 12 channels. Optimum’s DVR can handle up to 300 hours of HD, simultaneously recording over 15 channels. Overall, Optimum’s DVR is better for a large household, but can get expensive as you multiply out that $27 fee over the number of boxes needed to service your TVs.
For more basic DVR options, Verizon Fios offers the Multi-Room DVR – Enhanced for $20/month and the Basic DVR for $12/month. The Basic DVR can record two shows simultaneously and store 50 hours of HD content, while the Enhanced DVR can handle six shows at once and store 100 hours in HD. For certain TV packages the Basic DVR fee is waived.
Long story short: do you identify as a techie? Pick Fios. Budget shopper with a TV habit? Pick Optimum.
Fios will cost you extra, but we personally feel that it’s worth it for the quality of connection. If you do any streaming, video conferencing, or share the connection with family or roommates, you’ll notice the difference.
Since both services are data-cap free, you can Netflix to your heart’s content regardless of whether you go with a Fios or Optimum Internet plan. That said, both have strong TV bundles worth the cash if you watch regularly.
Last but not least: Optimum has a 30-day money-back policy, while Verizon Fios has no contracts and customers pay on a month-to-month basis. So whichever you choose, you can always switch if it doesn’t work out — just be sure to do it within the first month if you go with Optimum.
Verizon have bad unprofessional technicans.
Optimum sucks. The online chat is useless. Reps are clueless, it took a week to get a tech to come out and upgrade my modem, three scheduled appointments no tech calls or shows up. I ask rep to send me modem, I will install myself. Rep sends the exact same modem, albeit used, I have already which won’t support 1gig speed. I was charged for a service appointment and the tech never showed up. Optimum refuses to remove the charge. Once I got a competent rep, he directed me to the right department, sales, no longer waiting an hour on the phone-sales, of course-answered immediately, and a tech came out that same day. I’m spending over $345 a month on services to this company and they refuse to remove a $80 charge? Ignorant. Well, that’s why I’m researching Verizon now. I’m switching as soon as possible! Today I tried calling optimum to downgrade my services just to never speak to a representative, but to keep getting transferred to an automated service. I’m so done!
Verizon customer service is the worst. They drop your call and no one ever calls back even though they have your number. You end up going through the whole waiting game to get another service person on the line.
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