My two-week review of Optimum Online (October 2015)

So, I went back to Optimum.  My FiOS bill from Verizon had been slowly but steadily increasing over the past couple of years, with new fees and random price increases bringing my last bill up to $192.  This was with FiOS Extreme (a single DVR set-top box), 50/50 Mbps internet, and a home landline.

Moving to Optimum, i got their 50/25 internet, Optimum Silver TV (a single set-top box with their cloud DVR), and home phone for ~$140/month, guaranteed for 12 months.  There were some upfront costs associated with porting the home phone number and the install itself but it seemed like it was worth it for a $50/month savings.

After two weeks I can safely say that Optimum in 2015 is still inferior to FiOS and while I don’t regret leaving, I’m definitely ready to go back. What’s wrong?

The set-top box is still slow.

For years, before FiOS, I dealt with Cablevision’s horrifically slow boxes. The most obvious example of this slowness was changing channels: the time between when you pressed the “channel-up” or “channel-down” buttons and when the channel actually changed on screen was nearly 1 second. All menus were slow as well. While the Samsung box I got from Cablevision is definitely faster than that, there’s still a 100ms-200ms lag when changing channels. With the Verizon Motorola box I returned, the latency wasn’t noticeable – maybe 20 milliseconds?

The cloud DVR is terrible

We watch 100% of our TV content over DVR, so I was pretty excited about Cablevision’s cloud DVR and not having to worry about storage or recording conflicts. In practice, the DVR has a terrible UI – the episode name and number aren’t shown. Verizon’s DVR shows lots of info about the recorded episode (original air date, for example)

The real killer problemw ith the DVR though is that the signal just totally craps out when playing it back. Last night we watched this week’s episode of Homeland from DVR and there were lots of visual artifacts (green blobs and such) and a couple of periods where the DVR thought the video was playing but the picture on the screen was stopped. There was also a 10-15 second period during which the entire screen went black with no sound, as if there was just a hole in the stream recorded. When I backed it up it was still there on replay, so we missed a 10-15 second chunk of the show. These things NEVER happened with FiOS.

Home phone has to plug into the cablemodem.

This isn’t a huge problem but it’s annoying. We wanted the cablemodem down in the basement, but since there’s no phone jack down there, there’s no way to get a signal into the phone lines upstairs. We use cordless phones mostly, so it’s not a big deal, but we did have a fax machine (still a necessity sometimes!).

Internet isn’t nearly as fast.

All Verizon’s plans offer the same speeds up and down. Cablevision doesn’t. Even on Cablevision’s best plan, Ultra 101, you get 101 Mbit down but only 35 up. Verizon has speeds up to 150/150 reasonably priced now. The download speed seems to be on par with what we were getting with Verizon’s 50/50.

Phone calls require dialing “1”

This is really just aggravating. We’ve gotten used to dialing area codes, but Cablevision requires also dialing “1” in front of every number. Why?

Regional sports fee

This isn’t really a Cablevision thing since Verizon also added this bullshit $4.99 onto our bill, but as someone who doesn’t watch any sports, having to shell out $60/year for it explicitly is infuriating.

Going back to Verizon?

Yesterday I priced out Verizon and their pricing structure has really changed a lot, but for ~$171 I can now get their Ultimate HD package, 150/150 Internet, home phone and a DVR STB. That’s a big upgrade from what I had previously with them, and certainly better service. I’ll probably give Cablevision some more time to get used to it, but everybody in my house hates that we changed, so probably just a matter of time before we go back. I’m really surprised and disappointed that Cablevision hasn’t gotten very far in the 3+ years since I last tried them.

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