Cord Cutting Guides, News, and Reviews
We reviewed Optimum internet and TV service. Read our findings below.
I’ve had Optimum internet for about a year. It’s an ideal choice for streamers, gamers, and cord cutters who don’t want to get locked into a long-term contract. Not only does Optimum allow you to quit your plan at any time without penalty, but they also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with their service. Optimum’s lower-than-average pricing makes them hard to beat, depending on where you live.
The main limitation of Optimum is its availability. There’s a good selection of cable and fiber internet providers in the New England and Mid-Atlantic areas. In this year’s review, I’ll show you how Optimum stands up to providers like Spectrum. You’ll see how reliable my speeds are, all the plans Optimum offers, a breakdown on Optimum’s pricing, and how to save on your monthly bill.
With a network that spans four states and reaches over 12 million people, Optimum is one of the largest cable internet providers in the country. While Optimum’s cable internet coverage is in areas similar to Verizon Fios, Optimum’s fiber network is significantly smaller. In any case, Optimum offers fast speeds and affordable prices for residents of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Optimum is working to grow its fiber network to compete with Verizon Fios and other fiber internet providers while also trying to acquire more cable subscribers on the East Coast and potentially expand its services to the South.
Unfortunately, we’ve found that Optimum’s internet speeds are not always the most reliable. It’s a well-known fact that cable internet experiences network congestion that can make your speeds take a nosedive. It’s almost impossible to avoid network congestion when living in densely populated areas like the Northeast. For example, I have the Optimum 300 plan which has download/upload speeds up to 300/35 Mbps. I don’t get anywhere close to that speed:
As you can see, the download speed is more than 100 Mbps lower than advertised (my upload speed is pretty fast, however). Nonetheless, I still have enough speed to use my Chromecast and handle video calls for work—that’s the good thing about having such high speeds. There’s enough room from my internet to slow down without having too much of an effect on my connection.
Unlike many other large providers, Optimum doesn’t offer any plans with advertised speeds below 300 Mbps. Optimum’s small range of plans is still some of the lowest-priced plans when you compare price per speed. Providers with a wide range of plans, like AT&T or CenturyLink, don’t offer nearly as much speed as Optimum for just $40 per month. Just remember, you get what you pay for. I sometimes have trouble with audio being delayed when I’m streaming and my Chromecast losing Wi-Fi connection.
Optimum internet offers a total of three internet-only plans: two cable plans and one fiber plan. Providers with a small range of plans, like Verizon Fios and Spectrum, usually start out with speeds up 200 Mbps for $40-50. I’ll admit Verizon’s internet deals are enticing, but I get more speeds for the same price. I prefer more speed to a free Disney+ account.
All of Optimum’s internet-only plans benefit from fast speeds, no data caps, and a 30-day money-back guarantee. So, if you decide that you don’t like their service, you can drop it and get a refund of your first monthly payment only. Optimum’s money-back guarantee doesn’t refund installation or any extras fees you may have paid, only the monthly rate. Since none of Optimum’s plans require a contract, this makes it easier for people stuck in another contract to justify the switch. If you’re switching from another provider in the middle of your existing contract, Optimum will offer you up to $100 toward the early termination fee (ETF) from your previous provider.
I have the Optimum 300 plan because of its price, but their 1 Gig Fiber plan has a price that’s hard to beat — CenturyLink and Suddenlink are the only other providers with a Price for Life guarantee on gigabit internet. Besides a lifetime guaranteed price, Optimum’s 1 Gig Fiber plan is a better deal than the Optimum 500 plan since it’s only $5 more for twice the speed. If you’ve heard of Suddenlink or get curious and look at their plans, you’ll notice they’re almost exactly like Optimum. Suddenlink and Optimum are siblings, in a sense: Their parent company is Altice USA.
No matter what plan you get, you’re essentially paying for internet at home and on the go. Optimum customers get access to over two million Wi-Fi hotspots.
Currently, it’s hard to tell how much or if Optimum’s prices increase after the first or second year. Some customers report their bill increased by nearly $15 per month. My price hasn’t increased at all. If it does, I’ll switch to one of Optimum’s deals for existing customers — most providers don’t advertise if they have any, so I’m glad Optimum does.
Optimum’s low pricing is my favorite thing about them, but their prices can get higher due to their additional fees. To be fair, their fees aren’t much different than those from other providers. More popular providers charge $12-14 a month for their equipment fees. Optimum’s installation prices are on the high end, but are still in a decent range. You get a choice between the type of installation you want: self-installation, standard, or premium.
Self-installation is free if you’re using your own equipment. I had standard installation which involved them setting up my modem and connecting one of my devices to my Wi-Fi. If you want all of your devices wirelessly connected for you and a wired connection for one of your devices, choose the premium installation. If there’s a device that you need to have a very stable connection, like a computer if you teach online or a game console if you play online competitively, I’d suggest using an Ethernet cable to give it a wired connection.
Below, you can see a picture of my modem and router setup. They’re not too bulky and are out of the way. You could buy the same model modem, an Arris TM1602, and a wireless router to avoid the $10 a month fee. I rent Optimum’s modem because there’s better technical support when you use their equipment and free internet security. Plus Optimum includes a free smart router when you rent their modem, meaning it can switch to a faster network depending on where your device is.
Just so you know: Regular Wi-Fi connections provide at least two networks, one of them ends with “5G”. Your standard network is better for longer ranges but isn’t always the fastest. The network that ends in “5G” usually has faster speeds but only at shorter ranges. A smart router or smart Wi-Fi combines these networks and automatically switches between networks to ensure you have the best signal. In Optimum’s case, their smart router is also able to blanket your home with Wi-Fi.
Besides taxes and surcharges, one unavoidable fee Optimum has is the network enhancement fee. It’s just as it sounds, to help Optimum improve their network, but most customers aren’t too happy about it. You could balance out the cost of the fee by signing up for autopay and paperless billing — Optimum offers a $5 discount for this feature.
Optimum’s customer service has been harder to reach lately. Longer hold times are expected when many customers are experiencing issues. Unfortunately, Optimum seems to typically have long wait times because of speed and connection problems. I’d recommend contacting Optimum via Twitter (@OptimumHelp) before calling. Online chats are normally another helpful measure but you’d have to make it past their virtual assistant (who asks a lot of questions before connecting you to a live expert).
When it comes to speed, Optimum has some of the lowest-priced internet-only plans on the market. I may have an issue with my connection here or there but they usually resolve themselves quickly. I’ve had providers before who cost more and had similar problems — no internet provider is perfect. Not having a contract or data cap makes Optimum a good choice for cord cutters, but not for frequent movers. If you’re looking for a contract-free, cord cutter friendly provider that’s available nationwide, consider providers like AT&T or Spectrum.