Optimum hiked the prices of its internet and TV plans this month, and many customers have been finding out thanks to the arrival of surprisingly high bills.
TV packages jumped up as much as $30 per month, according to Consumer Reports. Internet prices are going up as well, with the basic “Optimum Online” service jumping up at least $25 per month.
Existing subscribers won’t see such dramatic hikes. A spokesperson for Altice, which runs Optimum, tells The Verge that existing subscribers’ monthly bills will rise by no more than $14.50 per month, regardless of what’s in their package. The much higher rates are only being given to new customers.
Optimum has a small presence in the US, only available in select areas of several states, including New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. But it has a large presence in New York City where, for many (such as in my own apartment building until somewhat recently), it’s the only option available.
The price hikes were announced last month, but many customers are now taking notice as February bills arrive.
Optimum did inform customers that the rate hike was coming, but it was easy to miss. The warning was tucked within subscribers’ monthly bill for January, under the heading “Optimum Updates” and prefaced by a message about how the company is trying to provide “the most advanced services and entertainment in the nation.” And customers may not have looked at their bill at all; if you opt to receive digital statements, you have to go out of your way to download and view the PDF bill with the message in it.
A spokesperson for Altice said that the company notified customers of the change through their billing statement and capped the increases to “ensure that no one customer was overly impacted.” The price hikes are due to the “rising cost of programming, which continues to impact pay-tv pricing industrywide,” the spokesperson said.
Altice has repeatedly found ways to slip in price hikes ever since it purchased Optimum in 2015. In 2017, it started charging a modem rental fee — $5 per month for existing subscribers, $10 for new subscribers — whereas Optimum originally had no rental fee. Last year, it introduced a “Network Enhancement Fee,” which is basically just a $2.50 per month price hike that the company pretends is a necessary service fee. For new customers, the fee appears to be $3.50 per month.
These price hikes are particularly problematic because cable operators so often have monopolies over the regions they operate in. In my apartment, Optimum was the only option until a year or so ago, when Verizon finally became available. For customers without a second choice, accepting the higher rates is pretty much their only option.