What happened

Shares of cable television and broadband service provider Altice USA (NYSE:ATUS) were down by 12.5% near the end of Thursday's trading session after a warning that the company would report a net loss of broadband subscribers for the current quarter.

So what

According to reporting from Bloomberg, Altice CEO Dexter Goei cautioned investors attending a Goldman Sachs investor conference on Thursday that his company was on pace to lose between 15,000 and 20,000 subscribers for the quarter that will end this month.

Falling digital stock chart.

Image source: Getty Images.

The warning was jarring to investors who had taken solace in the fact that high-speed internet customer growth has been offsetting the loss of customers due to an ongoing streak of cable service cancellations -- better known as cord-cutting. A growing number of streaming services has allowed consumers to cancel cable and utilize a curated collection of these over-the-top television options. For perspective, Altice USA ended the second quarter of the year with about 4.4 million broadband customers and without adding a meaningful number of subscribers during that three-month stretch.

Now what

Altice isn't the only cable television provider to indicate its broadband business growth is slowing down. Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) CFO Mike Cavanagh commented at an investor event last week that his company is also facing a slowdown in broadband customer additions. The slowdown is likely more cyclical  for the entire industry and not a company-specific issue. For headwinds like this, there is no quick or easy fix as the reduction in the number of broadband subscribers is likely a sign that the market is near or at saturation.

Given this backdrop, the smart-money move here is to avoid broadband until the situation becomes more clear. The cable industry will be able to survive little-to-no opportunity to grow its high-speed internet customer base. But it's a shift that could take several quarters to fully figure out. The continued wave of cord-cutting only makes matters more complicated while making these cable television providers a bit more challenging to own. Altice USA is a particularly tough pick to stick with since it doesn't operate any other business, whereas Comcast also owns Universal, NBC, and Europe's Sky.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.