New Optimum customers will see dramatically slower options for service in July, when the company will cut the upload speeds for its lowest-cost tier by 86 percent – from 35 megabytes per second to 5.
Optimum – the primary service provider in 16 municipalities in Fairfield and New Haven counties, and 8 more around Litchfield – told ARS Technica that the reduced upload speeds on its cable network service will bring the company’s offerings in line with other internet providers. But critics say it’s just a ploy to push customers into higher-cost tiers.
Burt Cohen, the state Broadband Policy Coordinator, noted that Netspeed – a broadband provider that is starting to roll out service in Fairfield County – offers upload and download speeds of 150 Mbps for $50 a month as its lowest tier of service.
A spokesperson for Altice, the parent company of Optimum, said the company’s network is performing “very well” despite the increase in data usage during the pandemic and the download speed tiers it offers.
“I don’t understand what the logic of that is. If they’re providing good service to customers, why would they cut back just because providers in other areas might be doing something different,” Cohen questioned. “It’s very anti-consumer.”
The Optimum changes will only apply to new customers and customers who change their service. Existing customers will not see a change unless they change their service plan, according to the company.
New customers should assess whether there are other providers that would be better for them, Cohen said. In lower Fairfield County, some customers could look to Verizon Fios or Netspeed as an option. But not everyone has another broadband-quality option available to them.
The spokesperson said Altice has spent millions of dollars to enhance its network, including building out its fiber optic network. The tier adjustments would apply to customers if they switched over to the hybrid fiber-coaxial data service, which the spokesperson said has upload speeds in line with other providers and is capable of handling multiple video calls at the same time.
Cohen told CT Examiner the 5 Mbps service is likely not going to be sufficient for customers who use several devices at one time in their households, and for an administration with a stated goal of providing universal access to broadband internet with speeds of 100 Mbps, it is a move in the wrong direction.
A bill that would have given PURA the power to regulate the operations of internet providers was stripped of key provisions over fears that companies would sue. Federal law would not allow PURA to regulate internet rates.