Cable is still the most available internet option

Robin Layton

Jul 18, 2023 — 4 min read

Rhode Island is the best state for fiber and cable availability.

Bright orange fiber cables being installed in a neighborhood.

Key findings:

  • Cable availability in the U.S.: 83.44%
  • Fiber availability in the U.S.: 37.98%
  • Comcast and Charter are the top cable providers
  • AT&T and Verizon are the top fiber providers
  • Rhode Island is the best state for fiber and cable connections

Since 1996, cable TV companies have provided broadband connections to individual homes in addition to television programming. Cable modems replaced our dial-up modems, and with the introduction of fiber-optic cables, the internet speed wars began. So far, cable is still winning for sheer availability.

Fiber internet flows through the glass fiber cables, allowing data to be translated via light rather than electricity and has the capability to provide nearly symmetrical download and upload speeds reaching up to 10 Gbps. 

Cable companies have spent years investing in upgrading their networks, with many offering hybrid fiber-coaxial connections.

“They have invested over $185 billion in the last decade to build and upgrade broadband networks across the country,” reports the Internet & Television Association (NCTA). “These investments have extended the reach of cable broadband networks to 6.4 million households between December 2018 and 2021, mostly in rural areas.”

The current state of fiber availability

High-speed internet in the form of fiber is available to about 40% of U.S. households, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) broadband map, compared to nearly 84% of households that can get cable internet. The Fiber Broadband Association reports it closer to 50% (63 million unique passings) at the end of 2022, and Independence Research estimates it at 48%.

AT&T is the leader in fiber availability at 10.5% of the U.S., followed by Verizon at 8.5% and Frontier at 3%. 

The best states to live in for fiber internet

Fiber internet plans are most available on the East Coast:

Rhode Island: 76%

New York: 58%

New Jersey: 58%

Alaska is the state with the least home fiber internet available at 7%. 

Fiber internet cost

You can get fiber in your home for similar prices to cable internet. 200 to 300 Mbps plans run from $49 to $70/mo. As you climb in speed, your bill can soar to $200+/mo.

The current state of cable availability

“Cable won the mass market broadband showdown vs. DSL over the past decade and continues to be the top broadband technology in the market today,” said broadband expert Matt Davis of Independence Research.

“However, the share of hybrid fiber-coaxial will decrease mainly because of the increased availability of fiber and increased competition, but also because the cable operators themselves are adopting and deploying fiber when it makes sense from an ROI and government broadband funding standpoint.”

The top cable provider in the U.S. is Comcast’s Xfinity, covering about 35% of the country. Charter’s Spectrum is next at 30%. 

Both companies also offer fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) connections, but at a much lower availability: Xfinity is .05% and Spectrum at .34%. The type of connection is when the fiber optic cable is brought right into a home or business, providing a direct connection to the ISP’s network.

Top 3 states for home cable

Cable companies have been established in the Northeast with extended coverage in most states. The percentage of addresses available in the top 3 states are:

District of Columbia: 99%

Rhode Island: 98%

Massachusetts: 97%

Montana is the state with the least cable internet available at 53%. 

Cable internet cost

Monthly cable costs start around $19.99/mo. for up to 100 Mbps in speed and go up to $200/mo. for faster gig internet plans.

The future of internet connectivity

In a bid to stay relevant in the consumer landscape of internet connectivity, many cable ISPs like Windstream are investing in fiber upgrades.

“Windstream last year reached 300,000 new fiber passings and is aiming to hit a similar target by the end of 2023, Kinetic President Jeff Small told Fierce in March,” reported  Fierce Telecom

“The Kinetic network spans 18 different states, with Windstream undertaking subsidized projects in states like Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.” 

Davis shares that the “$42 billion-plus in government funding has gotten the attention of all the cable ISPs, and we will see more fiber being deployed by cable operators in greenfield builds (previously untouched areas), and in those areas where subsidized deployment is available.”

“The current fixed wireless 5G broadband services have been very successful in terms of rapid adoption and if AT&T joined T-Mobile and Verizon in a significant market push we will see this growth continue for several years.”

Other internet options

Fixed wireless and satellite both have a place in the broadband landscape. Fixed wireless, for its relative ease to deploy, and satellite for its ability to serve areas that are not easily accessible to wireline connectivity,” said Davis.

As reported by Fierce Telecom, Recon Analytics said that fixed wireless “is a threat to everybody, and that continues to be true.”

5G home internet is growing in popularity, with T-Mobile, Verizon and Starlink leading the charge. 

There are other available internet options if cable or fiber isn’t available or you are looking for cheaper internet alternatives. 

Check out Allconnect’s Research Hub for more broadband information.

Main data source: Federal Communications Commission’s broadband map

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Robin Layton

Written by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Robin Layton is an editor for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. She built her internet industry expertise writing and editing for four years on the site, as well as on Allconnect’s sister site … Read more