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April 07,2020

What is fiber internet?

Fiber-optic internet sends data via streams of light through glass fibers. It’s very popular among consumers because of its speed and reliability, but not every American has access to it. The FCC reports that about 19 million Americans (or 6% of the population) still do not have access to high-speed internet in general, but when it comes to fiber-optic internet that number jumps to 67%

Theoretically, fiber can reach speeds of up to a terabyte per second, but consumers can pay to reach speeds of about a gigabyte per second. Even the cheapest fiber internet achieves speeds of 100 Mbps, which is enough for four people to stream in 4K at the same time. 

If you rely on the internet for your livelihood, or you have a large family who is online every day, fiber internet is the best internet currently available — whether it’s available to you, however, is another matter. Though many internet service providers (ISPs) have plans to enlarge their network, it’s not going to happen overnight.    

Who uses fiber-optic internet?

Fiber-optic internet is a great internet choice for just about anyone. High bandwidth-users obviously benefit the most from it because of its minimal to zero lag. Because it’s so reliable, gamers, HD streamers, and remote workers often choose fiber internet even if it means paying a higher monthly service fee.

Currently, only about 33% of U.S. homes are wired for fiber optic internet. It hasn’t reached a larger percentage yet because ISPs have to physically wire each and every home to the network. This takes time and a lot of manual labor, but many ISPs have plans to expand their networks in the near future.

Explore fiber options available in your area by entering your zip code below:

Which companies offer fiber internet?

ProviderDownload SpeedsFeaturesInstallationStarting PriceAvailability
AT&T Fiber100, 300, or 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)Free AT&T Smart Home Manager; McAfee anti-virus softwareProfessional installation included with select plans$49.99/mo.Check Availability
Frontier FiberUp to 940 MbpsBundle with TV and phone services to saveInstallation fees apply$29.99/mo. Check Availability
Google FiberUp to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)Unlimited data and 1TB of free cloud storageFree installation and no contracts$50.00/mo. Check Availability
Optimum FiberUp to 200 MbpsAccess to over 2 million WiFi hotspotsFree installation when ordering online; no contracts$44.99/mo. Check Availability
Verizon FiberThree plans with either 100, 300, or 1,000 MbpsAll new customers get a free year of Disney+Installation fees apply$39.99/mo. Check Availability

How does fiber compare to other types?

Fiber-optic internet vs. DSL internet

Like fiber-optic internet, Digital Subscriber Line (or DSL) internet is a type of broadband connection. However, DSL transmits data through existing telephone lines rather than through fiber-optic cables. Speed may be determined by how close you are to your phone company’s nearest facility.

Fiber-optic internet vs. wireless internet

Wireless broadband provides you with an internet connection through a radio link, not a physical cable. It’s frequently used in rural areas, unlike fiber-optic internet which is far less common.

Fiber-optic internet vs. satellite internet

With satellite internet, your online connection is forged based on signals from a satellite orbiting in space. Weather can impact the strength of your signal and both download and upload speeds are substantially slower than what you’d get with fiber.

Fiber-optic internet vs. cable modem internet

Another internet option is a cable modem connection which uses your cable line and has similar speeds to DSL, although nowhere near as fast as fiber-optic.

Pros and cons of fiber internet

Pros

  • Can be much faster than DSL and cable
  • More reliable when compared to other internet delivery methods
  • Families and businesses can connect multiple devices to the internet at the same time
  • No data caps unlike some other internet methods, there are no over-usage fees

Cons

  • More expensive compared to other options
  • Not available nationwide
  • Installation fees vary by provider

All residential fiber optic providers

Sorted by overall footprint for business and residential service, or % USA coverage.

ISPResidents CoveredCustomers% USA Coverage
Verizon34993944Business and Residential10.7%
Crown Castle Fiber0Business Only6.3%
AT&T16543702Residential Only5.1%
Frontier Communications11347475Business and Residential3.5%
Monmouth Telecom0 Business Only2.6%
CenturyLink4759612 Business and Residential2.3%
Spectrum61340 Business and Residential1.8%
Cox Communications1213929 Business and Residential1.2%
Unite Private Networks0 Business Only1.1%
Centennial Broadband0 Business Only0.9%
Google Fiber2130080 Business and Residential0.7%
PenTeleData2042397 Business and Residential0.6%
Windstream659960 Business and Residential0.6%
Stealth Communications0Business Only0.5%
Harbor Communications1459040Business and Residential0.4%
Cincinnati Bell1303719Business and Residential0.4%
Telepak Networks1096167 Business and Residential0.4%
Atlantic Broadband22204 Business and Residential 0.4%
Lightpath by Cablevision0 Business Only 0.3%
Armstrong0 Business Only 0.3%
Consolidated Communications684814 Business and Residential 0.3%
RCN706027 Business and Residential0.2%
Metronet674573 Business and Residential 0.2%
TelePacific0 Business Only 0.2%
Hawaiian Telcom653493 Business and Residential 0.2%
enTouch650415 Business and Residential 0.2%
Ultimate Internet Access532550 Business and Residential 0.2%
Shentel30857 Business and Residential 0.2%
TDS479350 Business and Residential 0.2%
Veracity Networks430982 Business and Residential0.1%
FirstLight Fiber136718 Business and Residential0.1%

Frequently Asked Questions

What is fiber internet?

Fiber internet uses fiber-optic technology to transmit data by converting electric signals to light, which then goes through glass fibers. The end result is a super-fast speed that outperforms both DSL and cable modems.

Who should use fiber internet?

There are a number of scenarios that are ideal for fiber internet. Telemedicine is a great example, where doctors can connect with rural patients to discuss medical issues, test results and more without having to travel.

It’s also great for distance learning for online colleges. Everyday use for consumers includes streaming movies, music and online games without any interruptions.

What equipment and installation is needed for fiber internet?

As long as your area is already connected to fiber-optic cables, your internet service provider should provide you with the necessary equipment and send a technician for installation. The two primary pieces of equipment they’ll include are an optical network terminal and a router. 

Does fiber-optic internet use a phone line?

No, fiber-optic is a type of broadband internet that doesn’t require a phone line.

How much does fiber internet cost?

Fiber internet costs vary between each provider. To get the best deal, the FTC recommends asking a series of questions before choosing an ISP. These include:

  • Is there a discount for bundling services with your company?
  • Do you have any current promotions?
  • Are there any cancellation fees?

How fast is fiber internet?

Fiber internet is the fastest type of internet available today. At a maximum, it can currently reach speeds of 10,000 Mbps (10 Gbps)