Optimum’s Reason for Slashing Upload Speeds Doesn’t Make Any Sense

Optimum’s Reason for Slashing Upload Speeds Doesn’t Make Any Sense
Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP, Getty Images

Starting July 12, Altice will reduce upload speeds on all its Optimum Online cable internet plans. While there’s no indication thus far that will impact prices, some plans will see upload speeds cut by as much as 86%. At a time when people are still working and learning remotely, you’d think Altice would have a good reason for this. Nope!

An Altice spokesperson told Ars Technica that congested networks have nothing to do with the decision to lower upload speeds, saying the network “continues to perform very well despite the significant data usage increases during the pandemic and the speed tiers we offer.” An Altice spokesperson sent the same statement to Gizmodo. Rather, Altice said its new, slower upload speeds are “in-line with other ISPs and aligned with the industry.” As in, no one else is offering cable upload speeds this fast, so they shouldn’t either.

Customers with Optimum Online will have upload speeds cut 86% from 35 Mbps to 5 Mbps. The Optimum 200 plan will be cut from 35 Mbps to 10 Mbps. Meanwhile, the Optimum 300, 400, and 500 plans will also be reduced to 20 Mbps. Those with gigabit cable plans will see their upload speeds slashed from 50 Mbps to 35 Mbps — meaning after July 12, the highest-priced plan will offer the same upload speeds as what the cheapest plan currently does. You can see a chart of all the changes here.

The one bright side is Altice told Gizmodo existing Optimum customers will be grandfathered into their current upload speeds — so long as they don’t downgrade or upgrade their plans. New customers and existing Optimum customers who change services will receive the new, slower upload speeds. So, if you were thinking about switching to Optimum from another ISP or want to change the plan you’re currently on, you’d best do it before July 12.

Altice emphasised to Gizmodo that Optimum’s fibre network will offer symmetrical upload and download speeds. “Over the last few years, we have been investing in building a 100% fibre network,” Altice said in an email. “We are hyper-focused on our fibre expansion, which is currently available to over 1 million homes–and growing quickly — and offers symmetrical speeds up to 1 Gig.”

The problem is that Optimum’s fibre network isn’t available to everyone yet. As Ars Technica points out, the ISP’s 100% fibre network currently only accounts for about 20% of its footprint. Altogether, as of Q1 2021, Altice’s cable and fibre networks serve 21 states and nearly 4.4 million customers.

To be fair, even Optimum’s cheapest cable plan offers speeds above the FCC’s recommended 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload speeds. However, that’s an incredibly low bar. A huge swath of the U.S. doesn’t have access to the FCC’s recommended speeds — even though it’s considered by many to be outdated for how we currently use the internet.

It’s baffling, then, that Altice is nerfing Optimum’s upload speeds like this when it could instead treat it as an advantage over its rivals. Usually, you see companies boasting how they’re better and offer more — not shoot themself in the foot to offer less for the same price. It’d be one thing if, given the pandemic, Optimum’s network was unable to handle the load, but Altice claims this isn’t true. You could interpret this as an attempt to make its 100% fibre networks more appealing, but again, that feels premature as fibre accounts for only a fifth of Altice’s footprint. Something doesn’t quite add up.

Listen, I’m no business genius, but America’s internet infrastructure is bad enough already. Can we at least not do this during a time when everyone deeply depends on good internet to function?