Spectrum vs. Optimum: Which Internet Provider Is Best?

Spectrum and Optimum duke it out in the cable internet war, but Optimum may have the upper hand with fiber.

Best for availability

Customer rating: 3.6

Price: $49.99–$89.99/mo. for 12 mos.*

Speed: 200–1,000 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)

Internet type: Cable

Data cap: No cap

Contract: No contract

 

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Best for fiber

Customer rating: 3.5

Price: $19.99–$49.99/mo.**

Speed: 100–940 Mbps

Internet type: Cable, fiber

Data cap: No cap

Contract: No contract

 

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Compare Spectrum and Optimum head to head

Go with Spectrum, even if Optimum’s fiber internet is available in your area. We don’t usually recommend cable internet over fiber because it’s generally less reliable and has slower uploads. But when every penny counts, the savings Spectrum offers just can’t be beat.

Pros and cons: Spectrum vs. Optimum

Pros:

  • Lower post-promo prices
  • No modem fee
  • No data caps

Cons:

  • Higher starting prices
  • No fiber internet
  • Monthly WiFi access fee

Pros:

  • Lower promo prices
  • Fast fiber
  • No data caps

Cons:

  • Large price hikes
  • Limited fiber availability
  • Smaller coverage area

Want to know if Spectrum or Optimum are in your area? Take a look by typing in your zip code below.

Plans and pricing: Spectrum vs. Optimum

Spectrum is the largest cable internet provider in the US, while Optimum’s network is more limited—with cable internet in Connecticut and fiber internet in New York (mainly Long Island), New Jersey, and a pinch of Pennsylvania. But while Optimum may have better pricing for your first year, Spectrum plans are less expensive once the promotional period dust settles.

Spectrum plans and pricing

PackagePriceSpeedDetails
Spectrum Internet Assist$17.99/mo. for qualifying householdsUp to 30 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)View Plan
Spectrum Internet®$49.99/mo. for 12 mos.*Up to 200 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)View Plan
Spectrum Internet® Ultra$69.99/mo. for 12 mos.*Up to 400 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)View Plan
Spectrum Internet® Gig$89.99/mo. for 12 mos.**Up to 1,000 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)View Plan

Spectrum’s plans appear more expensive than Optimum’s. For example, Spectrum charges $89.99 per month for the first 12 months for gigabit internet, while Optimum cuts that monthly fee in half. But both providers raise their prices after the first year, so expect Spectrum’s monthly cost to go up about $25 (if you don’t find a way to renegotiate pricing).

Spectrum has the upper hand with nationwide availability, but it lacks fiber service, which is a more reliable connection than old-school cable. Still, Spectrum’s cable internet is more than adequate for most people, with download speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary). It’s the cheaper option after the first year, and there are no added fees for modems or network enhancements.

Optimum plans and pricing

PackagePriceSpeedDetails
Optimum 100$19.99/mo.*100 MbpsView Plan
Optimum 300$29.99/mo.*300 MbpsView Plan
Optimum 500$39.99/mo.*500 MbpsView Plan
Optimum 1 Gig$49.99/mo.*Up to 940 MbpsView Plan
Fiber Internet 100$19.99/mo.*100 MbpsView Plan
Fiber Internet 300$29.99/mo.*300 MbpsView Plan
Fiber Internet 500$39.99/mo.*500 MbpsView Plan
Fiber Internet 1 Gig$49.99/mo.*Up to 940 MbpsView Plan

At first, Optimum has Spectrum beat for affordable pricing. For $49.99 per month, you can either get 200 Mbps with Spectrum or 1,000 Mbps with Optimum. That’s an 800 Mbps difference for the same starting price.

But monthly costs after the promotional pricing are where these two providers really divide. After the first 12 months, Spectrum’s pricing increases up to $25 per month, but Optimum’s pricing increases by up to $90 per month.1 Ouch.

Overall, Optimum is $25 more per month than Spectrum after the promotional pricing ends. Here’s what you can expect:

200 Mbps400 Mbps1,000 Mbps
Optimum$99.99$119.99$139.99
Spectrum$74.99$94.99$114.99*
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Deals and promotions: Spectrum vs. Optimum

Spectrum
Get a free, 90-day trial of Peacock Premium when you sign up for a qualifying internet plan.
Get the Deal
Optimum
Order a qualifying internet plan to receive a $50, $100, or $200 prepaid Visa gift card, up to 12 months of HBO Max, a Wi-Fi 6 gateway, a Wi-Fi extender, and installation—all for no extra cost.
Get the Deal

Extra fees: Spectrum vs. Optimum

Equipment FeeInstallation FeeOther Fees
Spectrum
  • $5.00/mo. for WiFi (no charge with Internet Gig plan)

  • $3.00/mo. per Spectrum WiFi Pod

  • No charge for modem or gateway
  • $49.99 for pro install

  • $19.99 for self-install and service activation

  • $49.99 for WiFi Pod install
  • $9.99 service activation fee

  • $8.95 late payment fee (after 21 days)

  • $25.00 insufficient funds fee

  • $5.00 phone payment processing fee

  • $9.99 reconnection fee (internet)

  • $4.99 reconnection fee (TV)

  • $19.99 equipment upgrade fee to Internet Gig plan
Optimum
  • $10.00/mo. for cable modem or wireless gateway
  • $10.99 late payment fee

  • $10.00–$15.00 Restore Service Fee

Optimum charges $10 per month to rent its modem or gateway. Spectrum’s modem or gateway is free to use, but you pay a $5 per month WiFi fee. Spectrum’s WiFi Pods are another $3 per month for each unit.

You can avoid both of these fees by purchasing a compatible cable modem, a standalone Wi-Fi router, or a gateway. The drawback is that you’re responsible for all upgrades and replacements unless you switch back to Spectrum’s or Optimum’s equipment.

Customer ratings: Spectrum vs. Optimum

Overall RatingReliability RatingCustomer Service RatingSpeed RatingPrice Rating
Spectrum3.63.63.63.73.2
Optimum3.53.63.63.73.3

Spectrum and Optimum rank in the bottom half of every category in our annual customer satisfaction survey. A quick glance at the scores shows Spectrum in 9th place out of 12 providers—Optimum is 10th. But Optimum scored slightly better than Spectrum in speed, price, and reliability satisfaction.

A deeper look shows that Optimum’s fiber customers gave slightly higher ratings than its cable customers in every category. But overall, around 83% of the Optimum respondents said their speeds usually or always met their needs. The number of Spectrum respondents that made the same claim was higher at 87%, yet both providers’ speed satisfaction scores rank at the bottom of our list.

Want to know if Spectrum or Optimum are in your area? Take a look by typing in your zip code below.

Best TV and internet bundles

PackageInternet speedTV channelsPriceDetails
Spectrum Internet (up to 200 Mbps) + TV SelectUp to 200 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)125+$99.98/mo. for 12 mos.View Plans
Spectrum Internet Ultra + TV SelectUp to 400 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary)125+$119.98/mo. for 12 mos.View Plans
Optimum 100 + Optimum Core TVUp to 100 Mbps220+$84.99/mo.*View Plans
Optimum 1 Gig + Optimum Core TVUp to 1,000 Mbps220+$114.99/mo.*View Plans

Spectrum doesn’t offer the traditional TV and internet bundle at a huge discount. Instead, you can pair its TV Select service with any of its three internet plans. You can add standard TV and premium channels to the base channel lineup, but they cost extra.

Optimum bundles its Core TV and Premier TV services with Optimum 100 and Optimum 1 Gig internet plans. The Core TV service starts with 220 channels, while the Premier TV service increases your starting channels to 420.

Internet types: Spectrum vs. Optimum

Internet typeDetails
SpectrumCableView Plans
OptimumCable, fiberView Plans

Spectrum uses existing coaxial cable lines originally installed for cable TV. Radio waves and up to 32 vacant cable TV channels deliver internet data to a cable modem. Optimum also provides cable internet, but only in Connecticut.

Optimum’s fiber internet beams light through glass fibers that reach an optical network terminal (ONT) installed outside or inside your home. It does not use the traditional modem.

Overall, fiber is the best connection for its reliability and symmetrical speeds. Fiber’s fast uploads are ideal if you transfer large files to a remote server or livestream, but its availability is limited. Cable is more widespread than fiber and has slower uploads, but it has fast downloads and an easier installation than fiber.

Data caps: Spectrum vs. Optimum

Data CapDetails
SpectrumNo capView Plans
OptimumNo capView Plans

There’s nothing to report here. Spectrum and Optimum do not enforce data caps, but Spectrum may do so starting in May 2023, once its agreement with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ends.2

Contracts: Spectrum vs. Optimum

Contract lengthDetails
SpectrumNo contractView Plans
OptimumNo contractView Plans

Spectrum and Optimum do not require contracts.They provide discounted pricing for the first 12 months. In both cases, you must keep the service for at least one month before you can cancel.

Installation: Spectrum vs. Optimum

Installation optionsDetails
Spectrum
  • $49.99 for pro install

  • $49.99 WiFi Pod install

  • $19.99 for self-install
View Plans
Optimum
  • $149.99 for pro install

  • $99.99 for standard install
View Plans

Optimum’s standard installation includes the setup of up to two outlets and one wireless device. The premium install includes three outlets, all wireless devices, and one wired device. Optimum doesn’t list a charge for installing its internet connection yourself.

Spectrum’s pro install includes all the necessary cabling and equipment. The technician provides you with the WiFi info and waits long enough for you to connect a wireless device. The self-install kit includes everything you need to get internet in a home with coax cables already installed.

Availability: Spectrum vs. Optimum

Spectrum is the largest internet provider, covering 38.3% of the US according to our proprietary data—all of which is cable internet. Most of its coverage area is in the Eastern and Central time zones, with smaller spots scattered across the nation.

Optimum mostly offers cable internet in New York (primarily Long Island), New Jersey, Connecticut, and a small portion of Pennsylvania. Optimum’s fiber internet service is available in Connecticut only, but parent company Altice USA expects to have 4 million fiber connections by 2025.3

To see if Spectrum or Optimum is in your area, enter your zip code below:

Final call: Spectrum vs. Optimum

When you stack Spectrum up against Optimum, Spectrum is the clear choice for long-term internet savings. Though its starting prices are a little steep, it makes up for it with much cheaper prices after the first 12 months compared to Optimum.

But we recommend Optimum’s fiber if it’s available and you don’t mind the price hike. Fiber is more reliable than cable and has symmetrical speeds, which you can’t get from Spectrum.

The good news is that Spectrum and Optimum don’t enforce annual contracts, so you can take advantage of their promotional prices and see which provider is a better fit for you. Still, the monthly savings you’ll see over time with Spectrum will add up and make you smile.

View Spectrum Plans

 

View Optimum Plans

Methodology

Our HighSpeedInternet.com editorial team bases our analyses on customer input from our annual customer satisfaction survey, results from our speed test tool, and proprietary internet provider data on speeds and pricing. To strengthen our research, we look closely at provider contracts to get hard-to-find information on price hikes, data caps, and extra fees, and we keep tabs on the latest news reports and online reviews. When applicable, we also rely on our personal experiences testing these services.

Sources

  1. Optimum, “Optimum Standard Rates & Packages,” February 2022. Accessed March 4, 2022.
  2. Federal Communications Commission, “Reply of Charter Communications, Inc.,” August 6, 2020. Accessed March 7, 2022.
  3. Altice USA, “Altice USA Announces Acceleration in Fiber Deployment Strategy; Announces Multi-Year Plan to Bring 100% Fiber Broadband to More Than 6.5 Million Passings Across the Optimum and Suddenlink Footprint,” February 16, 2022. Accessed March 29, 2022.

Author -

Kevin Parrish has more than a decade of experience working as a writer, editor, and product tester. He began writing about computer hardware and soon branched out to other devices and services such as networking equipment, phones and tablets, game consoles, and other internet-connected devices. His work has appeared in Tom’s Hardware, Tom's Guide, Maximum PC, Digital Trends, Android Authority, How-To Geek, Lifewire, and others. At HighSpeedInternet.com, he focuses on internet security.

Editor - Rebecca Lee Armstrong

Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.