Optimum is dramatically reducing cable internet speeds to be better “aligned with the industry”

Technology

Internet service provider Optimum, owned by Altice USA, is dramatically reducing cable internet speeds for new subscribers starting on July 12th. For some Optimum Online plans, upload speeds will be cut from 35Mbps to as little as 5Mbps, Ars Technica writes.

The change impacts new customers still serviced by Optimum’s older, non-fiber network, and it will only impact current subscribers if they upgrade, downgrade, or otherwise change their service.

Lowering the speeds, sometimes by as much as 86 percent in the case of the basic Optimum Online plan, could impact a range of daily internet tasks, from uploading files to making video calls. It could be frustrating to anyone currently working from home, but it’s even more confounding because apparently there isn’t a great reason for it.

Optimum’s owner Altice tells The Verge that increased traffic isn’t the justification for throttling its entire customer base. “Our network continues to perform very well despite the significant data usage increase during the pandemic,” a company spokesperson wrote. Changing the upload speeds, the spokesperson said, brings the plan “in-line with other ISPs and aligned with the industry.” When asked to confirm if that’s why the speeds were lowered, the Altice spokesperson reiterated the same statement.

Actually verifying that claim is more than a little difficult. Many ISPs aren’t particularly forthcoming with their upload speeds, presumably because none of them are great. Comcast’s Xfinity service, while not offering all of the same download speeds as Optimum, does match its 5Mbps upload speeds on a 100Mbps download plan and 35Mbps upload speeds on a Gigabit 940Mbps download plan, according to third-party site CableTV.com. Cox has the same 35Mbps upload speeds on its “Gigablast” 940Mbps download plan as well.

Optimum does offer symmetrical upload and download speeds on its “100 percent fiber network,” Altice says, but you might not find that coverage everywhere, and there are no guarantees that your neighborhood is one where the company will be expanding to next. Currently, fiber only covers 20 percent of Optimum’s total footprint, according to Light Reading, which equates to about 1 million homes. That leaves a lot of people potentially dealing with the new slower speeds after July 12th.