Suddenlink internet review: Great promo prices, worrying customer satisfaction – CNET

This Altice USA broadband provider offers service to over 1.6 million customers in the South and West regions.
The first thing that leaps out at you about Suddenlink internet service is the appealing price. In our CNET roundups, my colleagues have tagged Suddenlink as the best gigabit internet deal and also the best rural internet speed for the price. With Suddenlink starting at $30 a month for 100-megabit service, you’re going to get a good price on your internet service, at least at the start. 
Added to that, you have no contracts, a money-back guarantee and, in most markets, no data caps. How can you go wrong? 
Alas, it’s not all roses and sunshine. Despite the tough-to-beat intro pricing, Suddenlink suffers from fading customer satisfaction rankings and a significant second-year price increase. Even though most of its footprint has access to gigabit service, some areas don’t see those fast speeds. On top of that, select Suddenlink areas have data caps as well. 
That brings us back to the familiar mantra you’ve heard from us time and again regarding ISPs — the value of a provider often comes down to what it offers at your specific address. 
Suddenlink provides home internet service to communities in 17 different states. The full list includes: 
Among those states, Suddenlink has its highest concentration of service areas within Texas (over 100 different markets), West Virginia (40), Oklahoma (30), Arkansas (29) and Louisiana (28).
When we reached out to Suddenlink to ask about its cable hybrid network, a spokesperson highlighted parent company Altice’s commitment to broadening its reach, saying its “continuously looking for strategic ways to expand our footprint, including new builds, fiber upgrades… to bring our advanced suite of connectivity products to even more customers.”
Further, Suddenlink currently offers its gigabit service to over 80% of homes within its reach and has the 2021 goal of upgrading up to 300,000 homes to max download speeds of 400 megabits per second or even gigabit speeds where previously the max was 150Mbps. 
We’ve listed below the plans available in approximately 80% of Suddenlink’s markets, but speeds will vary by location and some areas may not offer all four options. In some markets, you may have only one or two plan choices. Here’s the overview of what you’ll commonly find: 
There’s very little to complain about with Suddenlink’s introductory pricing. It’s excellent. While the exact plans and pricing you’ll get are dependent on your address, the promotional deals it offers are extremely competitive no matter where you live. 
For example, the $0.13 average cost per Mbps for the introductory rates is better than what you’ll find with fellow cable providers like Spectrum ($0.17), Optimum ($0.21), Xfinity ($0.25), Sparklight ($0.28) and Cox ($0.53). It’s even better than the outstanding promo costs for WideOpenWest and the fiber offerings from Verizon Fios. Suddenlink is definitely a good value right out of the gate.
That said, I can feel your question coming: So, what’s the catch? To be fair, it’s not really a catch, but a common ISP practice: Like most internet providers, Suddenlink bumps up its prices after your first 12 months of service. Unlike some providers, Suddenlink doesn’t trap you by locking you into a term agreement that forces you into a higher rate or threatens a major fee if you break that contract. 
A Suddenlink spokesperson told CNET that its customers would receive notice of the new rate 30 days before the promo period’s expiration: “The exact rate change at the end of the first 12 months varies depending on product mix and offer, and we also provide additional promotional credits at the end of the initial 12 month period to minimize the rate increase for customers.” 
Suddenlink’s Wi-Fi equipment rental fee for the Altice Gateway is $10 a month, which is a tad lower than most providers. You’ll find that most ISPs charge around $15 a month for their modem/router combo. 
Also, Suddenlink is pretty proud of its equipment — in April 2021, it introduced its Smart WiFi 6 gateway, which boasts speeds up to three times faster than previous routers. It’s not available to all customers but to those on the gigabit plan or the highest speed tier in areas where the 1 Gig plan is unavailable.
Although the $10 monthly rate is a reasonable charge, you can forgo that fee altogether and use your own equipment. Like most ISPs, Suddenlink requests that you use a compatible modem/router device and advises that you will be ineligible for the types of service upgrades and technical support that users of Suddenlink’s gateway will have.
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As I mentioned earlier, over three-quarters of Suddenlink’s service areas are free of contracts and get unlimited data. But in some pockets of its coverage map, Suddenlink customers will face data caps. Most often, this applies to internet plans with max download speeds between 75Mbps and 200Mbps.
Typically, those data caps will be between 250GB and 350GB. Considering the average US household uses over 460GB of data per month, according to Open Vault’s broadband insights from the first quarter of 2021, I’d say those caps might be a little tight for some. If you exceed those caps, you can expect to be charged $15 for each additional 50GB of data used over the limit.
Nowhere to go but up? Suddenlink didn’t fare well on the latest ACSI numbers.
Back in 2017, Suddenlink earned its highest score in the American Customer Satisfaction Index survey of ISPs across the nation. Suddenlink received a customer satisfaction score of 66 out of 100, which was two points higher than the industry average at that point. But since that time, the numbers have been dropping every year. In fact, for 2021, Suddenlink notched a 55 out of 100, dead last among qualifying ISPs in the survey. That’s down nearly 4% from the previous year and a stunning 10 points below the industry average. Is that bad? It’s certainly not good.
Things went slightly better, relatively speaking, over at J.D. Power, where Suddenlink escaped the bottom spot in the South region. That “honor” went to HughesNet. However, Suddenlink’s 621 points out of a possible 1,000 were well below the regional average of 727 and — continuing the theme from the ACSI report — was below the numbers that it earned the year prior.
When many of us are leaning on our home connections much more than we ever have before, it’s disheartening to see these numbers trending down for Suddenlink.
Perhaps in response to those downturns in customer satisfaction measurements, Suddenlink is trying to offer more consumer-friendly practices. At present, Suddenlink has a handful of limited-time offers available. First, all online orders for Internet 200 or above receive free internet for a month, free installation — standard installation typically runs $99 — and a $200 Visa Prepaid Card.
Second, when you sign up for Suddenlink home internet service, you’ll be eligible to receive another $100 Visa Prepaid Card if you add Optimum mobile.
Third, Suddenlink Stream, a new 4K streaming device unveiled in July 2021, can be added for $5 per month for broadband-only customers and provides access to more than 50 free live streaming channels.
Lastly, new customers for Internet 200 or above will get several free months of HBO Max. That’s a solid value of $15 a month. Internet 200 customers will get three free months ($45 value), Internet 400 will receive six free months ($90 value) and Gig customers will get a full year of HBO Max for free ($180 value). 
When it comes down to cost — which is often the bottom line for many of us — it’s hard to beat the promo prices of Suddenlink. It does a great job of offering competitive pricing for relatively fast download speeds. It also boasts low equipment fees and some decent promo perks. You’ll also need to embrace those perks because a price increase will be coming after one year and you’ll also have to deal with a company that’s still struggling with how to better the satisfaction of its customers. Perhaps these more aggressive perks and customer-centric policies will make a difference down the road.
It is now. Suddenlink Communications was founded as its own company in 2003 in St. Louis, Missouri. Altice USA became its parent company when it acquired Suddenlink in 2015. A year later, Altice purchased Cablevision, which became Optimum. So, Altice USA, through the Suddenlink and Optimum brands, delivers broadband service in 21 different states.
You can contact Suddenlink online or via its chat function at its Contact Us page. If you are new to Suddenlink, you can also call them at 877-694-9474. Current Suddenlink customers, either looking for technical support or other help, can call 877-794-2724. Lastly, if you need to track down a Suddenlink location, you can find a list of Suddenlink stores online.
Optimum Advantage Internet — formerly called Altice Advantage Internet — is an affordable internet service offered to Suddenlink and Optimum customers. Qualifying households have access to max download speeds of 50Mbps for $15 a month. There is no contract required, discounted installation, no data cap and the gateway is included for free. 
Yes. Suddenlink offers a contract buyout for new customers switching from another ISP. You can get up to $500 if you terminate your contract with another provider.