THE BOTTOM LINE: Optimum (a.k.a. Cablevision) internet service is worth checking out if you can get your hands on it—as of January 2017, it’s only available in the Tri-State area. Optimum doesn’t require a contract, has competitive pricing, and delivers on advertised speed.
Is Optimum Right for Me?
- If you want no-contract internet
- If you want cheap, basic internet
- If you want to add TV service
- If you live outside of New Jersey, New York, or Connecticut
Great no-contract internet in a small area
If you live in the Tri-State area (NY, NJ, CT), there’s a good chance you can get Optimum internet service; everyone else is out of luck. Although Optimum probably has the smallest footprint of any provider we’ve reviewed, its no-contract internet service, better-than-average pricing, and download speeds of up to 300 Mbps make it an ISP we can recommend.
We’re big fans of no-contract internet, so Optimum gets major points for not getting its customers stuck in one- or two-year contracts. For example, if you were to cancel your internet with AT&T U-verse before the contract is up, you can pay upwards of $180 in an early termination fee (ETF). Yikes! And some internet service providers (ISPs) even charge extra if you want no-contract service—ahem, Comcast ($10 a month extra). If we have to choose between a contract and no-contract provider, we almost always go for the latter.
Things that matter most: speed and price
Optimum’s most basic internet service (Optimum 10) starts at $24.95 a month without a contract. It only has 10 Mbps download speed, but that may be enough for one person. If you don’t do much more than check Facebook and browse the web, you’ll be okay with 10 Mbps.
If it’s just you and you’re wondering if you can still watch Hulu with Optimum’s basic plan, we’d say you’re pushing your luck; if you’re going to watch streaming content, you should get a faster plan to play it safe. If you’re fine with waiting while downloading a movie, then no sweat, but a high-quality movie will take around 20 minutes to download. Still, $24.95 a month is a good price for basic internet. To compare, XFINITY’s 10 Mbps plan is $39.99 a month with no contract.
If you’re interested in more than basic internet, we found Optimum offered plenty of variety. Just in our area, we found five plans for the following download speeds and prices: 10, 60, 100, 200, and 300 Mbps, with prices ranging from $24.95 a month (the aforementioned Optimum 10) to $99.95 a month (the Optimum 300). Other ISPs offer speeds faster than 300 Mbps (Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, among others), but most people don’t really need that much speed. You might as well save the money if you can. If you share your home with someone else, you can both watch Hulu on separate devices with no buffering on a 60 Mbps plan.
Because Optimum is cable internet, there is a concern that speeds can get bogged down during primetime hours. (Read up on how cable internet works here.) However, according to the FCC, Optimum (referred to as Cablevision in the report) is the best-performing ISP when it comes to delivering speeds as advertised. Optimum is rated higher than any other internet provider across all types of internet service: DSL, cable, fiber, and satellite. In short: you get the speed you pay for.
Optimum also has the highest upload speed for cable internet we’ve seen: 35 Mbps. Upload speed matters if you’re uploading large files (home movies, hi-res photos, etc.) to a website or the cloud and you don’t like to wait. If you don’t mind long upload times, don’t sweat it, but we were impressed. (To compare, Suddenlink’s upload speed for its highest plan is a meager 7.5 Mbps.)
Good support makes happy customers
If you’re wondering about customer support, we gave Optimum a “low” for frustration level (that’s good). Getting help online was easy enough; we reached out through live chat and got the help we needed, including answers to our installation questions. And it’s not just us who thought Optimum did a good job: JD Power gave Optimum a solid five out of five for customer service. Also, when we reviewed customer feedback, we noticed a surprising amount of customers who expressed appreciation for Optimum after trying out other ISPs. In fact, many of those customers returned to Optimum or lamented that the service was not available in their new location.
Other odds and ends with Optimum
Optimum internet comes with some unique features, but the added benefit is questionable. For example, if you’re into local high school sports, each Optimum internet plan includes access to news12varsity.com, which has sports updates and streams live games. There’s also free access to Newsday (if that’s worth anything to you).
The most interesting feature is the inclusion of a free router with service … but a router is not a modem, and these days most people prefer the two-in-one approach: a modem-router combo, which we hoped would be standard by now (most ISPs do offer a modem router combo). You can rent a modem from Optimum, but we recommend getting your own. Just be sure to check with Optimum to see if the modem works with the service plan you want.
A limited footprint keeps Optimum out of reach for most people, but it’s an internet service worth considering. It has low prices (compared to other ISPs) and it won’t get you locked into a contract.
The Optimum 60 plan is our first pick. Its 60 Mbps download speed should be plenty for one person, and more than enough for two people. And it’s only $44.95 a month.
For $10 more than the 60 Mbps plan ($54.95 a month), you can get 100 Mbps download speed (Optimum 100 plan). It’s perfect for 2–3 who want to watch Youtube all at the same time.
You can add TV (Optimum Value TV) to your internet service (Optimum 60) for a total of $79.95 a month. That way you get TV and internet in one bill, if that’s how you want it.