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Optimum vs. Verizon Fios: Which Should Earn Your Trust for Home Internet?

These two broadband providers go head to head for your business throughout the Northeast. What are the differences? We're glad you asked.

Optimum, an Altice USA brand known primarily to our friends in the northeastern part of the country, will soon be familiar to folks in the southern and western portions of the US; the cable provider formerly known as Suddenlink is now Optimum. This means the Optimum name has significantly expanded its reach in 2022.

If you live in the northeastern US, you may already be comparing Optimum or Verizon Fios for your home internet connection. These two providers offer broadband to some major metro areas in that area of the country, and if you live in parts of Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, you might even have a choice between the two. 

According to the latest data from the Federal Communications Commission, Optimum is available to nearly 6% of the country and Verizon Fios is offered to just shy of 18% of the nation's potential customers. So there may be quite a few of you looking into these two ISPs and wondering what their differences are. Let's take a look.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Out of the gate, there's a lot to lure you to Altice's Optimum internet service. You get competitive introductory pricing (with a two-year price lock for new customers), fast speeds and decent perks. Along with those positives, you get unlimited data, no contracts and no equipment fees. What's not to like? 

Well, there are a few other factors to consider. Most households serviceable for Optimum will receive cable internet service, which can get you fast download speeds, but not the same upload speeds you would find with fiber-optic service. Lastly, Optimum has not fared all that well in customer satisfaction surveys, so there's work to be done there, too.

Read our Optimum home internet review.

 

Optimum Internet
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Sarah Tew/CNET

Verizon Fios is a 100% fiber internet service, which means you get symmetrical download and upload speeds. That's good, especially if you're spending more time working from home and videoconferencing these days. The high performance and speedy uploads of fiber internet let you accomplish those things better than cable internet, where upload speeds are typically much slower. 

Also, Verizon Fios doesn't flood you with a bunch of qualifications or caveats about its service. It keeps things simple with just three plans, and you don't have to worry about any early termination or overage fees because there are no data caps and no contracts. Granted, Verizon Fios doesn't feature the lowest prices, but it offers excellent value in the long run and scores exceptionally well in customer satisfaction rankings.

Read our Verizon Fios home internet review.

 

Verizon Fios
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Verizon Fios and Optimum have coverage maps that overlap throughout New York City and the surrounding areas.

FCC/Mapbox

Verizon Fios and Optimum coverage and availability

Verizon Fios focuses its coverage on several major metro areas in the Northeast. Those cities include Albany, New York; Baltimore; Boston; Buffalo, New York; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Richmond, Virginia; Syracuse, New York; and Washington, DC. All in all, Verizon Fios spans the eight states of Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia. 

Optimum Internet is available to two boroughs in the New York City market -- Brooklyn and the Bronx. It is also available to most of Long Island and a healthy section of northern New Jersey, Dutchess, and Westchester counties in New York and portions of Connecticut. 

Also, as I mentioned at the start, Suddenlink is now Optimum, so you'll now be able to find Optimum service in the following 17 states:

Arizona Nevada
Arkansas New Mexico
California North Carolina
Idaho Ohio
Kansas Oklahoma
Kentucky Texas
Louisiana Virginia
Mississippi West Virginia
Missouri

What's the difference between Optimum and Verizon Fios plans and prices?

On its site, Verizon Fios boasts that its upload speeds are "up to 25x faster than Optimum's cable network." On the flip side, Optimum brags, "If you are being mindful of your budget, Optimum is the better choice." Let's start sorting through it by starting with their available plans and price points.

Optimum plans and pricing

Plan Max speeds Starting monthly price Regular monthly price (after two years) Monthly equipment fee Data cap Contract
Optimum 300 300Mbps download, 20Mbps upload $40 $110 None None None
Fiber Optimum 300 300Mbps download, 300Mbps upload $40 $110 None None None
Optimum 500 500Mbps download, 20Mbps upload $60 $130 None None None
Fiber Optimum 500 500Mbps download, 500Mbps upload $60 $130 None None None
Optimum 1 Gig 940Mbps download, 35Mbps upload $80 $140 None None None
Fiber Optimum 1 Gig 940Mbps download, 940Mbps upload $80 $140 None None None

Verizon Fios plans and pricing

Plan Max speeds Starting monthly price Regular monthly price Monthly equipment fee Data cap Contract
Fios 300 300Mbps download, 300Mbps upload $40 $40 None None None
Fios 500 500Mbps download, 500Mbps upload $65 $65 None None None
Fios Gigabit Connection 940Mbps download, 880Mbps upload $90 $90 None None None

Let's start with Optimum. As with many ISPs, the number of plans available will vary based on your location and address. Instead of the 300 and 500 plans, some customers might see a 200 megabits-per-second plan or a 400Mbps option. But what stands out is the highly competitive pricing for the first 24 months of service. Taken across all three plans, the cost per Mbps of Optimum's starting monthly prices is a very affordable 11 cents per Mbps. Even more impressive? The cost per Mbps for the Optimum 1 Gig plan is just under 9 cents. 

Also, not listed in the chart above: Optimum has introduced fiber multi-gigabit plans in portions of Long Island, New York, aiming to unveil the plans to other areas by the end of the year. Optimum 2 Gig will run customers $120 a month, while Optimum 5 Gig will cost you $180 per month, which is a great value at just under 4 cents per Mbps.

The drawbacks? First, you can see how cable upload speeds don't compare to fiber internet. You only get 20Mbps of upload speed with Optimum 300 and 500; 35Mbps for the 1 Gig plan. What does that mean in the real world? Well, Zoom recommends you have at least 2Mbps upload speeds for a single screen, so if you've got a household with two or three people needing to do some form of videoconferencing, things could get tight quickly. Fiber won't run into that problem.

Second, those fantastic introductory prices don't last. After your second year of service, the plan costs revert to Optimum's regular rates, which could jump to 42 cents per Mbps on average across all four plans. Not the worst we've seen, but after those initial 24 months, it becomes more expensive than Verizon Fios. 

That said, CNET spoke with an Altice spokesperson about the third-year rates, and we were assured that customers would not see quite those same jumps. "Customer pricing may change after the initial promotional period ends but will not go to full rate card pricing. We communicate the exact change in pricing to our customers in advance of the adjustment taking effect." Per our contact, new customers should be able to see the year-three rate increase clearly when making their initial purchase.

Moving on to Verizon Fios, it keeps things similar across all the areas it serves. The three plans you see are the three plans offered. (One exception -- in New York, Verizon has introduced a 2-gigabit plan as well.) And those three plans don't have a promo price that changes to a regular rate after 12 months. That doesn't mean your rate will never change, but you're not fated to get that dreaded bump in your bill after a year. So, when looking across Verizon Fios' three plans, the cost per Mbps for Fios 300 at 13 cents is the same as Optimum 300's starting price, but the overall price of 12 cents per Mbps across all three Fios plans falls just a bit short of the 11 cents per Mbps for the three comparable Optimum plans of 300, 500 and 1 gig in the 24-month promo period. 

So, who wins this round?

It depends. Optimum has better prices for the first 24 months, but Verizon Fios may be cheaper in the long run. In addition, the symmetrical upload speeds you get from a fiber connection also bring a particular worth. On that note, Optimum also sees the value of fiber internet. An Altice spokesperson shared with CNET via email that Optimum Fiber is currently available to 1.6 million households, and Optimum's goal is that "fiber deployment continues at a rapid pace." It's not yet widely available, but Optimum is pushing further down that road to reach 6.5 million homes by 2025.

Verizon Fios and Optimum additional fees and add-on expenses

Verizon Fios and Optimum waive your setup if you order service online, so we've got a draw there. Both ISPs have also kicked data caps to the curb, so you don't need to fear any looming overage fees for your data usage. That's a win for customers of both services. Third, neither Verizon Fios nor Optimum require you to sign a contract, so there's no threat of steep early-termination fees. 

Lastly, you won't have to account for an additional monthly equipment fee with either provider. Previously, Verizon Fios charged customers an additional $15 a month to rent their router. Optimum was a bit cheaper, with its monthly equipment fee ringing in at $10 a month. That's all moot in 2022 since both have kicked the fee to the curb. 

Optimum and Verizon Fios perks and promotional deals

Perhaps because they compete in the country's largest metro market, Optimum and Verizon aren't shy about courting customers. 

On the Optimum front, all new internet customers will receive $10-$15 off their monthly bill if they add eligible unlimited Optimum Mobile plans to their service. In addition, new subscribers to the 300, 500 or 1 Gig plan will also receive a Visa Prepaid Card (either $100 or $200, depending on the plan) and a free Wi-Fi extender. 

Optimum also offers a 60-day money-back guarantee, twice as long as the 30 days provided by most other ISPs. It features a contract buyout as well. If you go to Optimum with a bill from a competing provider -- let's say you recently moved to an Optimum-serviceable address and you're coming from another region where you had a contract with your ISP -- it will give you credit to cover the early termination fee you incurred, up to a maximum amount of $500. 

Verizon Fios has some similar deals and offers to sway you its way. First, like Optimum, it extends an Early Termination Fee offer. Specifically, you'll get a bill credit of up to $500 if you switch from your current provider and are charged a termination fee for breaking the contract. Second, Verizon also boasts a money-back guarantee offer, but unlike Optimum's 60-day window, the money-back offer is viable for your first 30 days of service. Third, customers who sign up for select 5G mobile plans will get $25 off their monthly bill.

As for perks, all new Verizon Fios 1 Gig customers will receive Disney Plus for six months. If you sign up for the 300Mbps or the 500Mbps plan, you'll also get a $50 Verizon Gift Card. Lastly, new Gigabit customers will get a $200 Verizon Gift Card, a Wi-Fi extender and 2TB of Verizon Cloud storage.

ACSI rankings of US customer satisfaction with internet service providers
American Customer Satisfaction Index

Verizon Fios vs. Optimum on customer satisfaction

There's no other way to put this -- Optimum has a long way to go to match the customer satisfaction track record of Verizon Fios. Let's start with the 2022 American Customer Satisfaction Index for ISPs. Verizon Fios landed at the top of the chart with 72 out of 100. Verizon landed at the top of this benchmark survey for the seventh straight year. 

Unfortunately for Optimum, the ACSI survey had much harsher news. Optimum scored 59 out of 100, five points below the industry average. Even more distressing, it was lower than the previous year's rating.

Over at the 2021 J.D. Power US Residential Internet Service Provider Satisfaction Study, Optimum's news wasn't much better. The company earned a disappointing score of 655 on a 1,000-point scale, which was well below the East region average of 714 and a drop from the previous year, where it had almost overtaken Spectrum. Instead, it bested only Frontier Communications at the bottom of the list.

Meanwhile, Verizon Fios also ranked high in this satisfaction survey, earning 758 out of 1,000. This dropped from its 2020 score but was well above the second-place Xfinity in the same East region. In fact, of all ISPs in the J.D. Power survey, Verizon Fios boasted the highest score across all areas. 

Verizon Fios took the top spot in the East region of J.D. Power's most recent ISP customer satisfaction survey. Optimum? It was near the bottom, second only to Frontier Communications.

J.D. Power

What's the final verdict? Verizon Fios wins most metrics

If you have a choice between Verizon Fios and Optimum, it's tough not to go with Verizon Fios. First, a 100% fiber network will beat cable internet every time, from reliability to symmetrical download and upload speeds. And, despite the compelling savings you'll get in Optimum's first two years of service, Verizon's consistently strong customer satisfaction ratings are enough to put it over the top.

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