Optimum Online first impressions, January 2017 edition

I recently had Optimum Online installed at my house and cancelled Verizon FiOS, again. I think this is the the seventh time I’ve switched between the two providers over the past five or six years — at one point I had switched from Verizon to Cablevision and only lasted two months before switching back.

When Verizon first showed up on Long Island they were the upstart tv provider. Cablevision had had a monopoly for decades and provided relatively good tv and internet service. Optimum Voice had even made a sizeable dent in home phone lines — they beat the phone company at phone service! Fios was hungry though, willing to give huge deals to get people to sign up for their superior service. After a couple of years, word of mouth had the intended effect and Verizon — with faster internet, better channel choices, lower prices, better set top boxes-became the premier provider. Cablevision scrambled to compete in quality but as recently as 2015 they had inconsistent internet with asymmetrical speeds (e.g. 100 Mbps download/30 Mbps upload), bad HD picture quality, extremely slow cable boxes (3–4 seconds to change the channel) and dvr that dropped portions of the shows you recorded (several seconds worth).

So it was with great reluctance that I called Cablevision in December to schedule installation at my house. The impetus was pretty simple for me: my Verizon bill in October had been $121. In November it jumped to $234. This was due to discounts expiring after 12 months. I called to try and get the price down but there wasn’t much I could do if I wanted to keep the premium channels (the only ones we watch). So, long story short I had our home phone number ported to Optimum and went with their Silver package, with all the premium channels, two HD STBs, phone and 200 Mbps/35 Mbps internet for $165/month, with the price guaranteed for 3 years.

It’s been two weeks since Optimum was installed (I started writing this post the day of the installation) and I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with the quality of service. On the TV side, the picture quality is excellent, the STBs are MUCH faster and more responsive when changing channels or navigating menus, and the DVR works well. The only negative I can think of is the remote doesn’t have a skip-forward button like the FiOS remotes, though with On Demand included for the premium channels we have, there’s not a lot of need for DVR. The internet is reasonably close to what they advertise — usually around 150–160 Mbps download and 37 Mbps upload. The closest I’ve gotten to the advertised 200 Mbps has been 194, and that was just once.

Speedtest.net result from Jan 21, 2017

I was also impressed with the installation itself. In the past the technicians who came to my house to install Optimum didn’t leave me with a great impression. Sometimes they were obviously third-party contractors who showed up in a plain white van with an Optimum magnet attached to the side, looking very sloppy, and seemed determined to drill new holes in the side of my house to run the line in despite the fact that we obviously had the service before, so existing lines must be there. In any case, this time the tech was very professional, calling ahead of time to ensure I was home, and he installed everything quickly and neatly. He also wired the phone service into our existing house phone line, unlike previous times we’ve had Cablevision when the techs said that wasn’t possible.

Optimum provided a Sagemcom “smart” router, which provided good signal, but attempting to access the management UI (192.168.1.1) redirected me to router.optimum.net with a very restricted UI. It appears Optimum requires you to make changes in their web portal, and those changes then get pushed into your router. I’m very not-Ok with this as this means my wifi passwords etc are stored on their server. Additionally, there appeared to be no way to configure DHCP on the Sagemcom router to set the DNS server for DHCP clients to anything other than itself, and its built-in DNS server/proxy was timing out randomly, causing everything to break when DNS lookups failed. After an hour trying to wrestle with it I ended up removing the Sagemcom router completely and re-enabling NAT & DHCP on my trusty TP-Link Archer C7 router, which I’d been using as a WAP previously. Since removing the Optimum router from the network everything’s been great, and all my LAN clients are hitting 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4 as DNS servers.

So like I said, so far I’ve been very pleased with Optimum.

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