• Choosing an Internet provider sometimes feels like choosing between “the devil you know” and “the devil you don’t.”
  • Luckily, that’s not the case for customers with a choice between Fios and Optimum (also known as Cablevision or Optimum Online).[1]
  • Verizon Fios and Cablevision are among the highest-ranked broadband providers in the US. Both provide above-average upload speeds, decent customer service, and are free of data caps. Their biggest differences come down to speed vs price and TV packages.

Quick Picks

The biggest difference between Fios and Optimum is that Fios is fiber, while Optimum is cable. Fiber generally offers better speeds and less latency (lag), but comes at a slightly higher price.

Compare Verizon Fios and Optimum by Cablevision at a Glance

StatisticVerizon FiosOptimum by Cablevision
Price Range$39.99 - $79.99/mo+$39.99 - $79.99/mo+
Connection Type(s) Fiber Cable
Customer Recommendation Rating on BroadbandNow.com62.0%53.9%
ACSI Customer Service Rating73/10069/100
Netflix Ranking10th13th
Population Served33,019,05112,215,763

“Verizon Fios vs Optimum” is a Question of “Fiber vs Cable”

The biggest difference between Fios and Optimum Online is their network technology. Fios is 100% fiber, while Optimum uses a hybrid fiber-coaxial cable network.

Fiber networks are designed for digital data, while cable networks were originally designed to carry cable TV signal. Both work for digital data, but fiber generally works better.

The big performance differences come down to upload speed and latency. Fiber generally outperforms cable in both categories.

Upload speed refers to how fast your connection can transmit data from your home network to a remote server. This speed matters most for activities like Skyping, uploading YouTube videos, and streaming on Twitch, where you are “broadcasting” as well as “receiving.”

Fios is a “Fiber to the Home” network that runs fiber cables all the way to your house, rather than just to the general area like a “Cable” connection.

Cable networks like optimum generally max out around 35 Mbps for uploads, even for faster plans where the download speed is several times higher. This is because coaxial cables were designed to move data one way (towards the customer) for the most part. Additionally, the average Internet user downloads much more than they upload, and won’t notice the speed difference.

Latency is the term for “lag,” like when a long-distance phone call feels out of sync. Latency matters most for gaming and video conferencing, which is why we recommend Fios for gamers and home offices.

A Common Feature: Small Coverage Footprints

Another thing Optimum Online and Verizon Fios have in common is a small coverage area. Both carriers fall under the “boutique” category of above-average service in a relatively small service area. Currently, the only overlap is in the Tri-state area — mainly New York.

Verizon Fios Coverage & Availability Map

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

Optimum by Cablevision Coverage & Availability Map

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

Fios vs Optimum Download Speed

Speed is the metric where Verizon Fios is hard to beat. While both providers have budget plans in the 50–100 Mbps download range, Fios owns the speed charts because of its fiber to the home infrastructure.

Verizon Fios average download speeds

Optimum by Cablevision average download speeds

CityVerizon Fios SpeedOptimum by Cablevision Speed
Bay Shore146.17 Mbps108.02 Mbps
Bayonne138.36 Mbps101.92 Mbps
Brentwood100.45 Mbps108.58 Mbps
Bronx110.58 Mbps83.47 Mbps
Brooklyn146.04 Mbps102.84 Mbps
Clifton92.91 Mbps99.63 Mbps
Elizabeth100.79 Mbps65.5 Mbps
Lakewood143.56 Mbps108.77 Mbps
New Rochelle128.58 Mbps106.15 Mbps
Newark147.75 Mbps101.25 Mbps
North Bergen97.63 Mbps69.65 Mbps
Passaic92.36 Mbps91.51 Mbps
Paterson100.76 Mbps108.17 Mbps
Poughkeepsie92.2 Mbps105.35 Mbps
Trenton95.54 Mbps100.57 Mbps
Union City97.9 Mbps93.56 Mbps
Valley Stream139.73 Mbps65.99 Mbps
West New York137.47 Mbps87.28 Mbps
White Plains101.01 Mbps105.13 Mbps
Yonkers100.34 Mbps108.82 Mbps

Verizon took a big gamble investing in new fiber infrastructure. It’s a bet that payed off when the cord-cutting phenomena (AKA Netflix, Hulu, Sling) stormed the market — leaving traditional cable providers to play catch-up. Fiber is also future-proofed for future bandwidth-intensive technologies like 4k TV screens and smart homes that are already entering the mainstream market.

Thumbs up with Netflix on the background.
Verizon Fios was well-positioned to benefit from the streaming craze, and is our top pick for cord cutters.

Verizon often advertises their top speed Internet plans as “gigabit,” but they actually fall short of 1,000 Mbps (1 Gigabit/sec) in most cases. That said, download speeds over 800 Mbps are still nearly 8x what you get from Cablevision, and more than 20x their maximum upload speed.

Customer Service: Mixed Ratings on Both Sides

Skyscraper buildings
The complexity of installing fiber in urban areas has slowed Fios’ expansion.

Optimum Online and Verizon Fios both do better than average when it comes to customer service. Because they both serve smaller areas, they tend to give more personalized service than some other large Internet providers, although they’ve both had some PR scares in the past.

Fios, for example, was recently the subject of a lawsuit from the state of New York over their alleged failure to build out Fios service as promised in a contract with the city.[2] Verizon has stated that the slow expansion is largely due to difficulty gaining access to buildings from noncompliant landlords.

Optimum also got a bit of bad press for using the “free” routers packaged with their plans as hubs in their public Wi-Fi network. Comcast was under fire for a similar practice recently, although they made it possible for customers to turn off the public Wi-Fi feature.

Equipment and Installation: Optimum Wins for Flexibility

The process for installing and setting up Fios is a bit quirky since the equipment for fiber is different from traditional cable or DSL and has to be installed from scratch. Because of this, it often takes longer and you might have to wait a few days for a technician to be available.

Optimum is also quirky, in that they provide separate modem/router units rather than the combo “gateway” unit favored by larger cable providers. That said, having a dedicated modem and router is actually a good feature for customers who want to enhance their home network.

Installation Considerations and Fees

Fios can take anywhere from 2–8 hours to install the ONT box and wiring needed within your home. Definitely set aside a full day to be available for the technician appointment. There is usually a fee for installation, although some customers have reported having it waived for 1–2 year contract plans.

If you just want service as fast as possible, it’s likely you can install Optimum yourself with a self-install kit. This is just a question of hooking the modem and router up to the cable jack in your house and having an Optimum rep talk you through activation over the phone.

Modem and Router Leasing Fees

Verizon Fios encourages customers to use their default gateway device, usually the Fios Quantum Gateway, for a monthly fee of $10/month. They also offer the option to purchase it outright, although you might find a better price from a third-party retailer. (Just keep in mind that you get what you pay for.)

If you want to save the monthly fee and use your own router that isn’t a Verizon router, you’ll have to ask them to switch your ONT (Optical Network Terminal) box to ethernet and run an ethernet wire to your router. This can be tricky if it’s a long trip between your ONT and your living room — but likely worth it if you want to use a fancier third-party router. More information on this is available in our Verizon Fios review.

Optimum Online charges a $5/month fee for their standard modem. They include a high-speed router for free, although it will double as a public Wi-Fi hotspot. While the public network is separate from your personal one, this practice has raised security concerns for some customers.

Purchasing your own router for Optimum will save you money in the long run. Optimum provides information on compatible models on their site.

Verizon Fios vs Optimum TV Plans: Fios is Usually the Stronger Value

Flat screen TV installed on the wall.
Fios is the premier pick for 4k and ultra-high-def content. Optimum wins out on variety and pricing.

Measuring up TV plans between Optimum and Fios is tricky since they’re so customizable.

If you’re a sports fan or just want the maximum amount of channels possible, definitely take a close look at Optimum. As of today Optimum Online offers 620 channels, with 165 in HD.

For the “average” TV fan, we recommend Fios. They have fewer channels overall (~425, with 140 HD), but they offer flexible bundle options to make sure the channels you do want are available.

Fios vs Optimum DVRs

Optimum currently wins the DVR game, with an overall stronger device at a third of the cost. Verizon charges a relatively steep $32/month for their multi-room DVR, while Optimum only charges $10/month.

The Fios DVR maxes out at 200 hours of HD recording across 12 channels.

Optimum’s DVR can handle up to 300 hours of HD, simultaneously recording over 15 channels.

Verizon Fios vs Optimum: Fios Takes the Cake For Speed, While Optimum Offers Strong TV Value and Convenience

Long story short: do you identify as a techie? Pick Fios. Budget shopper with a TV habit? Pick Optimum.

Fios will cost you extra, but we personally feel that it’s worth it for the quality of connection. If you do any streaming, video conferencing, or share the connection with family or roommates, you’ll notice the difference.

Since both services are data-cap free, you can Netflix to your heart’s content regardless of whether you go with a Fios or Optimum Internet plan. That said, both have strong TV bundles worth the cash if you watch regularly.

Last but not least: Fios and Optimum both have 30-day money-back policies. So whichever you choose, you can always switch if it doesn’t work out — just be sure to do it within the first month.


Experts

Jameson Zimmer

Jameson Zimmer

Jameson Zimmer is a technology and telecom expert hailing from Charlottesville, Virginia. His work with data-driven companies like BroadbandNow has helped bring attention to consumer issues like municipal broadband.

James Webb

James Webb

James Webb is a tech and gadgets expert with a focus on educational content development. He draws on his background in the startup world to make complicated technologies and topics easy to understand for normal folks.

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