If you can get fiber internet from Optimum , you'll get great all-around service with fast speeds and reasonable pricing. If you can get only cable internet, you'll get slower max speeds and may see different pricing. Both options are decent, but watch out for third-year price hikes and potential customer service hassles.
Sparklight, formerly known as Cable One, is a cable internet provider primarily serving suburbs and rural areas in over a dozen states. Its no-contract plans offer good download speeds to areas fiber doesn’t often reach, but its data caps aren’t ideal.
Optimum offers a lot for the money. Both fiber and cable internet plans start at 300 Mbps, with a very competitive price that beats the entry-level plan for competitor Spectrum and is way less than national benchmarks (1). That's plenty fast for most online gaming and work from home needs, but you can pay for even higher speeds if you have a big household.
Compared to the competition, the two lower-tier plans almost always offer more speed for the money. And while you can technically find cheaper gig plans, Optimum still tends to be the most affordable in its markets.
If you qualify only for cable internet with Optimum, your speeds will be slower but you'll pay about the same every month. Prices are higher than other cable internet providers at these speeds, but you may not have a choice. Most areas that don't have fiber internet won't have multiple cable internet options.
We love the low starting prices, 2-year price lock, and 60-day money back guarantee, but you can expect prices to jump $35–$85 in your third year of service.
Sparklight’s no-contract cable internet plans are generally a decent value compared to other providers available in the communities the company serves. While you might not be able to get fiber in these areas, you’re likely to find DSL, satellite, or other cable internet service providers (ISPs). The speed you get for the price is comparable to other cable providers or a bit cheaper, and the performance surpasses DSL and satellite. All of this means Sparklight’s plans are worth strongly considering if your address is in one of its service areas.
We recommend choosing a Sparklight plan with at least 200 Mbps of download speed, but ideally more if it’s in your budget. Since Sparklight is a cable provider, upload speeds tend to be far below the download speeds. Upload speeds increase with each pricing tier, so if you work from home and have multiple connected devices you may want to pick one of the more expensive plans for seamless video calls.
All of Sparklight’s plans have data caps, except for its most expensive Gig plan. Data caps are typical for cable providers. While some competitors offer data caps over 1 TB for all of their plans, Sparklight’s plans have data caps that range from 100 GB to 1.5 TB. You can get 100 GB blocks of additional data for $10 during months when you need it, or you can upgrade to unlimited data with any plan for an extra $30/month. When calculating your needs, consider that the average person uses 536 GB of data per month (1).
The Gig plan offers the most data for your dollar and the highest speeds, but it’s more expensive than fiber plans with comparable download speeds, at least in some of the service areas. If you don’t want to pay top dollar, the Internet 300 and 500 plans also offer good speeds and high enough data caps for the needs of most households. We wouldn’t recommend the Internet 25 plan because its low speeds and data cap won’t comfortably meet most people’s needs.
Optimum performance is solid. With speeds up to 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps), there’s enough bandwidth available for even the heaviest of streaming households. Even the lowest-tier plans offer plenty of speed for most use cases. The cable service is generally very reliable, as well, and usually even faster than advertised, with better latency than any cable competitor. (2)
Additionally, Optimum offers fiber internet service in some of its coverage areas, which offers extra reliability and symmetrical speeds. That’s an excellent feature for content creators and anyone who shares a lot of large media files. Recently, it started offering home internet plans up to 5 Gbps, a speed that’s nearly impossible to beat.
Sparklight is available in mostly rural and suburban areas where customers probably won’t be able to get fiber internet. This makes Sparklight’s cable internet speeds the best option in some communities that are otherwise served only by DSL or satellite, which can be slow and unreliable. According to a report from Ookla, Sparklight had the highest download speeds among fixed broadband providers in North Dakota and New Mexico. (2)
Sparklight is a fiber-rich cable provider, meaning it delivers service using a mix of fiber and coaxial cables. While it can achieve download speeds of up to 940 Mbps, its upload speeds are much lower than that, reaching 50 Mbps. This is a technical limitation of cable connections that those with fiber connections won’t experience. While this isn’t ideal for households with several people who want to do heavy gaming or take video calls at the same time, Sparklight’s download and upload speeds are generally still sufficient for most households. And for regular browsing and streaming for multiple users, it's just fine. However, the data caps may hold you back if you’re a heavy internet user. Occasional outages and inconsistent speeds do affect service according to customer reports on Downdetector. (3)
Optimum offers a fairly standard wireless gateway with both its fiber and cable plans. The combined modem and router are usually free, but may cost you $10 per month on top of your bill in some areas. You can also add Wi-Fi extenders for $3 each per month, which is handy for larger homes and offices (and not a bad price, either).
If you want to use your own equipment instead of Optimum's free gear, you may run into difficulties. Optimum doesn't list compatible equipment and requires at least some third-party modems to be purchased from its stores.
With Optimum installation, you can do it yourself or have a pro help, and either way is free. If you order online, you can opt for a free standard professional installation or pay $59 for a premium installation, where the tech will configure Wi-Fi on up to six devices for you. While other providers may offer to set up your main device during installation, we haven’t seen such an extensive guarantee elsewhere. This could be a selling point for less tech-savvy customers.
When you sign up for Sparklight internet service, you can call to schedule professional installation or choose self-installation. Both options are reasonably fast according to customer reviews. Professional installation is typically free and can be scheduled at your convenience. There's technically a $90 professional installation fee, but it is waived as part of a "permanent promotion." Self-installation is free and should take about 15 minutes once you receive your equipment in the mail.
You can choose to purchase your own Sparklight-supported modem or lease a modem from Sparklight for just over $10/month, less than some other providers. The installation cost, activation fee, and any equipment deposits may be waived for qualifying new customers.
Optimum provides a good customer experience overall. Both types—cable and fiber—are fast and stable, and we haven’t seen any major complaints about reliability. We think the day-to-day experience with Optimum is fine.
However, the company’s customer service is less than stellar, with one of the lowest ratings of all providers, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) (3). Most of the complaints we’ve seen involve a poor experience dealing with customer service reps. Optimum does offer solid online support options, so you may be able to get around these issues. And, of course, not everyone has a poor experience.
Customer experience with Sparklight is about average compared to other providers. Tech support is available 24/7 by phone or email, and there are plenty of help articles available online. Like most other providers, equipment installation is straightforward whether you have it done professionally or do it yourself.
Common complaints include unplanned outages, inconsistent speeds, and long wait times to reach Sparklight support by phone, according to user reports on Downdetector. (4) If you try Sparklight’s internet service and it doesn’t live up to expectations, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.