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What is fiber internet?

Fiber-optic internet uses cables made of thin glass or plastic fibers to transfer data in the form of light signals. This internet connection type is able to support faster speeds and superior reliability compared to DSL and cable internet services. Fiber internet is one of the best internet types for the price, but is also unfortunately one of the least available.

FTTN vs FTTH connections

All fiber-optic internet connections are not the same. FTTN, or fiber to the node, connections use fiber cables to carry data to a hub close to your home. From this point, DSL or coaxial cables may carry the data the rest of the way. Fiber internet providers may connect multiple homes in your neighborhood to the same node. Consequently, peak usage time and distance from the node can slow internet speeds.

FTTH, or fiber to the home, connections mean the fiber cables are connected directly to your home. No DSL or coaxial cables are required and shared bandwidth is reduced, resulting in a more reliable, faster connection.

Who offers fiber internet across the U.S.?

Homeowners and renters have growing fiber-optic internet options. If available, you may be able to choose a fiber internet plan from one of the providers below.

According to the FCC, nearly 32% of the U.S. population is eligible for fiber-optic internet service. As providers expand their fiber internet networks, more and more people will be able to enjoy high-speed fiber options.

Most fiber internet providers offer a range of speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. By using tiny strands of glass instead of copper line connections, fiber internet can give you some of the fastest internet speeds, high service reliability and allow your family to enjoy online entertainment on more devices.

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Fiber internet providers in your area

ProviderStarting price*Speed range up toLearn more
AT&T logo
AT&T
$40/mo.100 - 1,000 MbpsAT&T packages
CenturyLink Logo
CenturyLink
$65/mo.12 - 1,000 MbpsCenturyLink packages

Cox
$119.99/mo.1,000 MbpsCox packages
Frontier
Frontier FiOS
$29.99/mo.50 - 500 MbpsFrontier packages
mediacom logoMediacom$119.99/mo.1,000 MbpsMediacom packages
Suddenlink LogoSuddenlink$84.99/mo.1,000 MbpsSuddenlink cable packages
Verizon Fios Logo
Verizon Fios
$39.99/mo.100 - 940 MbpsVerizon FiOS packages
Windstream LogoWindstream$36/mo.6 - 1,000 MbpsWindstream packages

*Pricing per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply. Pricing varies by location and availability. All prices subject to change at any time. May or may not be available based on service address. Speeds may vary. As of 07/16/19.

Since fiber technology is new, it’s not as readily available as other internet service options. Providers such as AT&TCenturyLink, CoxFrontier, MediacomSuddenlinkVerizon and Windstream offer a limited number of residential fiber-optic internet connections, but they continue to expand fiber service to more neighborhoods.

AT&T offers fiber internet across select cities in California, Texas, the Midwest and most of the Southeast. AT&T continues to build its fiber internet network in the U.S., so more residents in these regions will soon have access to high-speed fiber internet. In December 2018, AT&T announced new fiber expansions will include Gainesville, FL, Waco, TX, and other cities.

CenturyLink Fiber Internet offers speeds up to 1,000 Mbps in 11 major metro areas in the U.S. CenturyLink gig speeds are available in cities such as Denver, CO, Las Vegas, NV, Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, Omaha, NE, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, and others.

Cox Gigablast internet is available in most Cox service areas. Primary service areas include Phoenix, AZ, San Diego, CA, New Orleans, LA, Oklahoma City, OK, Omaha, NE, Providence, RI, and Virginia Beach, VA.

Frontier Communications offers two types of fiber internet. Frontier FiOS fiber internet is available in areas of California, Florida and Texas. Frontier Vantage Fiber is available in select cities across the Midwest, Southeast, Northeast and Northwest.

Google, one of the first fiber internet providers, has fiber-optic networks in select cities across the U.S. Right now, Google does not intend to expand fiber internet markets. You can find Google Fiber in parts of cities such as Atlanta, GA, Kansas City, KS, Austin, TX and Salt Lake City, UT. Where available, Google Fiber plans start at $50/mo. and offer speeds ranging from 100 to 1,000 Mbps.

Suddenlink offers gigabit internet in 50 metro areas across the country, but mainly serves cities across Texas. Towns where Suddenlink fiber internet is available include Lake Charles, LA, Rocky Mount, NC, Amarillo, TX, and Canyon, TX.

Verizon’s fiber TV and internet, Verizon Fios, is available in select cities across the East Coast. Verizon offers fiber across New Jersey, throughout Pennsylvania, in select cities in Virginia and in other major metro areas across the coast.

Windstream’s fiber internet, Windstream Kinetic Gig Internet, is available across 16 states. Cities and towns where Windstream fiber internet is available include Huron, MO, Concord, NC, Avon, OH and Wake Village, TX.

Is there fiber-optic internet near you? Check availability for fiber providers in your area.
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How does fiber internet compare to cable and DSL?

If you live in an area with access to fiber internet, chances are good that you also have cable and DSL internet options as well. The type of internet you choose can make a difference in available speeds and overall quality of service.

Fiber-optic internet vs. cable internet

Fiber internet can offer starting speeds similar to what you’d get with cable internet with download speeds in the 50 to 100 Mbps range. Fiber-optic’s fastest speeds are higher than most cable connections, with speeds up 940 Mbps or higher. Additionally, you’re likely to get faster upload speeds, and more consistent speeds.

Starting prices for fiber-optic internet plans is comparable to cable internet and may even be cheaper, depending on the provider and plan.

Availability is where fiber-optic and cable internet differ most. Fiber internet is only available to about a third of the U.S. population, while cable is available to more than 88%. Fiber internet is most likely to be available in select parts of metro areas, whereas cable is likely available throughout metro areas and surrounding locations.

Fiber-optic internet vs. DSL internet

Fiber internet is capable of delivering download and upload speeds much higher than DSL. The speeds you get with fiber-optic internet can support streaming in HD or 4K, gaming online and more on multiple devices. DSL internet speeds are typically better suited for lighter internet activities, such as streaming in SD, browsing the internet and sending emails. Another advantage is that fiber-optic internet doesn’t require a phone line for service like DSL.

Price and availability are two advantages DSL internet has over fiber-optic internet. Plans are likely to be cheaper with DSL service, and DSL is the second-most available internet type next to satellite internet, covering 95% of the U.S.

Pros and cons of fiber internet

Fiber internet gives you a connection that’s great for streaming videos, gaming, video conferencing, uploading large files and more. Even with all of fiber internet’s perks, fiber has some disadvantages.

  • Quality: Since fiber’s main conductor is glass, it’s resistant to interference. This helps it produce a connection known for superior performance, reliability and high speeds.
  • Speed:  Fiber internet speeds can reach up to 1,000 Mbps where available.
  • Value over time: Because fiber-optic networks cost less to maintain, the price for service is expected to become more affordable over time.

  • Availability: As providers install more fiber-optic lines, fiber internet becomes available to more people. But at this time, fiber is only available in select cities and neighborhoods.
  • Initial expansion costs: Fiber networks cost more than other internet connection types to construct. It can lead to higher initial costs for providers and customers.
  • Home installation requirements: Many homes already have phone lines or cable connections at the ready for DSL and cable connections. Since fiber technology is newer, a fiber provider may need to drill into your home to set up new lines.

Fiber internet provider customer satisfaction

Fiber internet service providers often rank higher for customer satisfaction than cable. Here’s how the top fiber internet providers ranked in customer satisfaction for 2019, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Best fiber internet providers by 2019 ACSI score

  • Verizon Fios – 70/100
  • AT&T Internet – 68/100
  • CenturyLink – 58/100
  • Windstream – 56/100
  • Frontier – 54/100

J.D Power also ranks Verizon FiOS high, especially in the East region, giving them a 5/5 rating in every category, including performance, cost, billing and customer service. AT&T internet ranked highest in the South and North Central regions, coming in with 5/5 rankings for overall satisfaction in both.

Frequently asked questions about fiber internet

Fiber internet is available to about 32% of the U.S. population. Large metro areas are the most common service areas for fiber-optic providers, but actual availability may be limited to certain ZIP codes or neighborhoods within a city.

Fiber-optic internet prices vary by provider and the plan you choose. Depending on what’s available in your area, you could get fiber-optic internet for around $40/mo. Gigabit internet plans, however, can easily cost over $100/mo. for service.

You will likely need a new modem for fiber internet service as traditional cable and DSL modems are not compatible. Fortunately, fiber internet providers either include a modem or offer one to rent or purchase with their internet plans.

No. Fiber internet uses thin glass or plastic wires to transmit data so no phone line is required. The exception is FTTN connections that use a DSL connection from the node to your home.

Fiber internet offers speeds as fast or faster than most cable connections. Fiber internet is also more likely to deliver consistent speeds, regardless of time of day or distance from the provider. Cable internet will typically give you more plan options, including low-cost internet options, because cable providers can offer speeds slower than what you’d get with fiber-optic internet.

Fiber internet is ideal for users who want fast, consistent internet speeds and don’t mind paying a little extra for service. Fiber-optic internet gives you the bandwidth to stream, game online, browse social media and more at once across multiple devices.

Though it is a great internet service type, fiber-optic internet isn’t for everyone. If you’re shopping for the cheapest internet service, fiber-optic internet likely will not offer the cheapest plans in your area. Also, if you just need an internet connection for browsing the web and streaming, you likely won’t need the faster speeds that come with fiber internet.

Last updated on 07/16/19.

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