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About fiber internet

Fiber is the best type of internet you can get. Running on light signals from fiber-optic cabling, it’s incredibly fast—topping out at max speeds of 1,000–2,000 Mbps. It has low latency, so it’s great for gaming and videoconferencing. And it delivers superior upload speeds, making it perfect for working and studying from home.

It’s not widely available and it can be expensive, but if you can get fiber in your area, go for it—our own HighSpeedInternet.com data suggests that customers are generally more satisfied with fiber compared to slower connections like cable and DSL internet. We have all the details on fiber plans, prices, speeds, tech specs, and where you can find it below.

Popular fiber internet providers

ProviderFiber speeds up toPriceCustomer ratingAvailabilityGet it
Verizon Up to 940 Mbps$39.99–$79.99/mo.3.710 states on the East CoastView Plans
AT&T 940 Mbps$35.00–$60.00/mo.3.8California and 21 other states in the South and MidwestView Plans
Google Fiber2,000 Mbps$70.00–$100.00/mo.N/A12 cities and counties across the United States; 7 additional cities have Google Webpass
CenturyLink 940 Mbps$65.00/mo.3.836 states, especially in the South and MidwestView Plans
Frontier 940 Mbps$49.99–$79.99/mo.3.829 states including California, New York, and TexasView Plans
Optimum 940 Mbps$75.00/mo.3.9New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and PennsylvaniaView Plans
EarthLink 1,000 Mbps$69.95–$99.954.049 statesView Plans

Most fiber internet providers give you 1,000 Mbps speeds, which is usually the fastest connection you can get from any internet type. But some providers also give you options in which you pay less each month for a slightly slower (yet still quite fast) internet speed. We recommend going that route if you’re on a budget but still want a smooth internet connection that can handle a lot of Wi-Fi users.

All of these plans also give you equal download and upload speeds, so you’ll have excellent performance when it comes to upload-heavy tasks like attending Zoom meetings and hosting livestreams. Fiber is the only internet type that can get you upload speeds as fast as download speeds.

Is fiber available in my area?

Fiber internet isn’t available everywhere, but you can often find it in large cities and towns. Search with your zip code to see which fiber internet providers offer service near you.

Find fiber providers in your area.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Fastest speeds
  • Low latency
  • Excellent upload speeds
  • High customer satisfaction

Cons

  • Limited availability
  • Higher prices
  • Lack of competition

Pros of fiber

Fastest speeds—Fiber internet is by far the fastest internet you can get. Fiber-optic plans can hit max speeds up to 2,000 Mbps (2 Gbps), which is 20 times faster than even the fastest DSL speeds and twice as fast as the speediest cable plans. More commonly, you’ll find fiber plans in the range of 500–1,000 Mbps, which is still superb. Also, it’s uncommon for fiber internet to experience network-wide slowdowns during peak hours, as often happens with cable internet. Fiber speeds remain consistent even during heavy usage.

Low latency—Fiber is very efficient and built on relatively new infrastructure, which helps reduce the amount of latency you’ll experience over your connection. Latency is the delay (measured in milliseconds) that happens when you send an internet signal from your computer to the larger internet network and vice versa. That could be anything from clicking “Send” on an email to firing a weapon in a fast-paced video game. Fiber’s low latency rates make it especially useful for the high-performance demands of online gaming, livestreams, and video calls.

Excellent upload speeds—You’ll find that fiber speeds are typically “symmetrical,” meaning the upload speed is just as fast as the download speed. This is a huge difference from internet types like cable and DSL, which typically give you much slower upload speeds compared to download speeds.

High customer satisfaction—As our annual customer satisfaction survey indicates, internet customers who use fiber service generally have a lot less complaints about things like speed, reliability, and price. Fiber customers reported an overall satisfaction rating of 3.8 out of 5, while cable and DSL customers both gave more middling scores of 3.6. Fiber users also seemed pleased with speed and customer service, giving average scores of 3.9 and 3.8 in those two crucial categories.

Cons of fiber

Limited availability—The main disadvantage of fiber is that it’s hard to find. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), only 40% of Americans have access to fiber internet where they live.1 The FCC doesn’t have the most accurate data-collection process, so the real numbers are likely much lower than that.2 Building up fiber internet requires a costly investment of fiberglass cabling and other infrastructure, so many internet providers simply haven’t put in much effort to build out fiber.

Higher prices—Rather than providing a wide range of speed and price options, fiber internet providers tend to sell packages that hit only the most premium speeds, which means cheap fiber options can be hard to come by. But this seems to be changing as more fiber internet providers have begun offering fast plans for less than $70 a month.

Low competition—Even though fiber internet is available to 40% of the US population, less than 3% of Americans have access to more than one fiber provider in their area.1 Fiber internet providers often serve as local monopolies in the markets where they provide service. So if an internet customer wants fiber, they’ll usually have just one option to choose from. As a result, you have less leverage when it comes to advocating for lower prices or better customer service.

Best fiber internet plans

PlanDownload/upload speedPricesGet it
Google FiberGoogle Fiber 1 Gig1,000 Mbps/1,000 Mbps$70.00/mo.**View Plan
Verizon Verizon Fios Gigabit Connection
Up to 940 Mbps/Up to 880 Mbps
$79.99/mo.*View Plan
AT&T AT&T Fiber Internet 300300 Mbps/300 Mbps$35.00/mo.View Plan
CenturyLink CenturyLink Fiber Internet
940 Mbps/940 Mbps
$65.00/mo.View Plan
Frontier Frontier FiberOptic 500 Mbps Internet
500 Mbps/500 Mbps
$49.99/mo.§View Plan

Cheapest fiber internet plans

PlanDownload/upload speedPricesGet it
AT&T AT&T Fiber Internet 300300 Mbps/300 Mbps$35.00/mo.View Plan
Optimum Optimum Fiber Internet 100100 Mbps/100 Mbps$35.00/mo.View Plan
Frontier Frontier FiberOptic 50 Mbps Internet50 Mbps/50 Mbps$49.99/mo.View Plan
MetroNet MetroNet 200/200 Mbps200 Mbps/200 Mbps$49.95/mo.View Plan

The cheapest fiber internet plan is AT&T Fiber Internet 300 for $35 per month for the first 12 months. It gives you 300 Mbps speeds, which is plenty to support several Wi-Fi users all at once as they Zoom, play online games, and stream in 4K resolution.

There’s some other cheap fiber options too, which we recommend looking into if you’re on a budget. Though you won’t get the fastest-possible speeds on a cheaper plan, you’ll still get reliable service and won’t have to deal with recurring slowdowns and service interruptions like on other internet types.

How fiber internet works

Fiber internet works by using bundled strands of fiberglass to deliver an internet connection into your home.

It’s the fastest and most reliable form of home internet because it relies on light signals, which are much more efficient and less subject to electrical interference compared to copper phone lines and coaxial cables.

You could say fiber signals technically travel at light speed, although their capability is slowed down somewhat by the physical process of traveling through glass. Still, this makes fiber powerful enough to deliver speeds up to 2,000 Mbps—much faster than any other internet type. Fiber networks are also much newer compared to the aging infrastructure of DSL and cable, which helps boost performance.

Fiber is so reliable that the world’s major data routes and network access points are linked together between oceans and continents through massive bundles of fiber-optic cabling.3 If fiber is good enough for the vast global backbone of the internet infrastructure, then you know it’s the best way to wire up your own home internet.

How fast is fiber internet?

Fiber internet reaches speeds up to 2,000 Mbps, but most fiber providers offer top speeds of 1,000 Mbps.

To put that in perspective, Netflix recommends just 25 Mbps to stream video in 4K on one device. But supercharged gigabit speeds (1,000 Mbps) give you the ability to perform many more tasks on many more devices simultaneously. That way, you and everyone else on your Wi-Fi will never have to worry about whether your internet speed will slow down or cut out, because it will always be humming smoothly with bountiful bandwidth.

In practical terms, fiber is fast enough to keep up with extremely heavy internet use and a range of advanced online activities. It can support streaming 4K on multiple devices, downloading massive files, uploading content to cloud servers and social media accounts, gaming online, teleconferencing on Zoom, connecting multiple smart home devices, and pretty much anything else you throw at it.

Fiber internet upload speeds, in particular, set it apart from other types of broadband. Cable and DSL give customers asymmetric speeds—meaning customers’ upload speeds are much slower than their download speeds.

Most people use a lot more download data than upload data, so the differences in speeds are fine. But fiber providers offer symmetric upload and download speeds, which is a much better setup for things like video calls, vlogging, or cloud computing.

You use download bandwidth for any information you get from the internet. That includes video streaming, browsing web pages, and downloading files. Upload bandwidth is used for any information you send to the internet. Clicking buttons, typing in commands, and posting on social media all rely on your upload speed.

What do internet users think of fiber internet?

It’s clear from the results of our most recent customer satisfaction survey that most customers like fiber-optic internet a lot more than other connection types.

The three top-rated internet providers in our survey—EarthLink, AT&T, and Verizon—are all fiber internet providers. They took the first, second, and third spots for overall satisfaction, respectively, and also ranked highly for other crucial categories like internet speed, price, and reliability.

All three of these providers also offer DSL internet. But when you break down the numbers specifically between DSL, cable, and fiber customers, it’s clear that the fiber customers are the most pleased with their service. CenturyLink and AT&T’s fiber customers gave much higher overall ratings compared to the providers’ DSL customers, while Optimum got better rankings for fiber services compared to its cable offerings.

Customer satisfaction was lower in general in our survey, suggesting that many people have been frustrated with their internet in the wake of the grueling COVID-19 lockdown. But fiber services ranked highest in all of our survey categories. With fiber’s symmetrical speeds and efficient fiber-optic infrastructure, fiber internet users didn’t have to deal with the same problems with congestion, recurring slowdowns, and buffering issues that are far more common with other internet types.

Fiber internet and upload speeds

While most internet providers emphasize the importance of download speeds, fiber internet also delivers record-fast upload speeds. Fiber internet providers can often give you upload speeds of 1,000 Mbps or faster, beating out cable and DSL providers by a wide margin. This makes fiber a lot more useful for upload-centered activities like making video calls, posting to social media, and hosting livestreams.

So, how does this work, exactly? The difference between your download and upload speed has to do with what you’re using it for. When you download data, you get things from the internet. When you upload data, you put things onto the internet.

Examples of downloading data:

  • Reading an email
  • Watching a YouTube video
  • Downloading a game

Examples of uploading data:

  • Posting to Twitter
  • Joining a Zoom meeting
  • Uploading a file to the cloud

Internet users typically spend a lot more time downloading than they do uploading, so cable, DSL, and satellite providers haven’t put in much effort to make sure their upload speeds are very fast. For example, a cable internet package that can get you 1,000 Mbps download speeds may be capable of delivering only 35 Mbps upload speeds.

But since the spread of COVID-19, there’s been a sudden, widespread need for faster upload speeds as more people are stuck at home working, attending online classes, and hosting online versions of live events. In January 2021, acting FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel even proposed raising the federal standard of broadband upload speeds from a measly 3 Mbps to a much more robust 100 Mbps.2

At this point, fiber seems to be the only type of internet that can rise to the occasion and give internet users the most high-bandwidth upload speeds possible. That’s yet another reason why we’ve got fiber on our happy list.

Fiber vs. DSL and cable

Fiber, DSL, and cable all transmit internet signals in a similar way—they carry binary signals (computer language) through cables over long distances. But while DSL and cable use copper wires and electrical signals, fiber uses fiber-optic cables and blinking light signals.

The light signals used in fiber are faster and more efficient than electrical signals, and they have fewer issues with signal interference or degradation over long distances. That translates to faster, more reliable internet with very little lag.

Internet types—how are they different?

Internet typeSpeedsPricesAvailability (% of US population)1
Fiber100–2,000 Mbps$35.00–$299.95/mo.40%
Cable25–1,000 Mbps$19.99–$109.99/mo.88%
DSL1–100 Mbps$37.99–$69.9589%

In addition to being more efficient, fiber-optic threads are also thinner than the copper wires used in cable and DSL infrastructure, so more of them can fit into a single cable. This increases the available bandwidth, which prevents network congestion and allows for gigabit speeds for you and everyone else on your street at the same time.

The only problem with fiber is that it’s not widely available. Installing the infrastructure for it is expensive, so internet providers are hesitant to roll it out everywhere. Most fiber networks are in cities, leaving a lot of the US to settle for older technology.

Where can I get fiber internet?

You can get fiber internet from more than 200 fiber internet providers in the US, but those providers are found mainly in cities. According to FCC data, up to 39.15% of the US has access to fiber internet. But the actual number is possibly lower, considering the unreliable way the FCC collected that data.4

Want to see if you can get fiber in your area? Type in your zip code below to see what’s available.

 

Google Fiber availability

Google Fiber is available in 18 cities across the US, though some of the cities offer service only to apartments or condos.

These cities have access to Google Fiber internet services:

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Austin, TX
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Huntsville, AL
  • Kansas City, MO/KS
  • Nashville, TN
  • Orange County, CA
  • Provo, UT
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • San Antonio, TX
  • The Triangle, NC

These cities are Google Fiber Webpass cities with internet access for apartments and condos:

  • Chicago, IL
  • Denver, CO
  • Miami, FL
  • Oakland, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA

Frontier fiber availability

Frontier Communications offers internet services in 29 states, but its fiber internet services are present only in certain areas. The rest of the provider’s service area gets DSL.

Some states that previously had fiber internet from Frontier now have it through a provider called Ziply. In May 2020, Frontier sold its operations in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana to Ziply.5

View Frontier Plans

  • California
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Texas

Vantage by Frontier is present in parts of seven states:

  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Ohio

Verizon Fios availability

Verizon’s Fios fiber internet service is available in 19 metro areas on the East Coast.

View Verizon Fios Plans

  • Albany, NY
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Boston, MA
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Delaware
  • Harrisburgh, PA
  • Long Island, NY
  • New Jersey
  • New York City, NY
  • Norfolk, VA
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Plattsburgh, NY
  • Providence, RI
  • Richmond, VA
  • Salisbury, MD
  • Staten Island, NY
  • Syracuse, NY
  • Washington, DC

AT&T Fiber

AT&T offers fiber internet services in 21 states. It offers both DSL and fiber internet, but its fiber network is concentrated mostly around urban areas, while it provides DSL internet for more rural locations.

View AT&T Plans

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Wisconsin

Fiber internet FAQ

What is Google Fiber?

Google Fiber is a fiber-optic internet service provider (ISP) operating in 18 cities across the US. The ISP offers internet speeds up to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps) for residential customers as well as business internet plans. None of its residential internet plans have contracts or data caps, and it provides free installation.

Google Fiber also offers fiber TV and home phone services in a few markets.

What is AT&T Fiber?

AT&T Fiber Internet offers speeds ranging from 300 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps). It’s one of two types of internet service that AT&T offers: DSL and fiber. The internet provider’s fiber internet service is faster and more reliable. It isn’t as widely available as the DSL service, but we recommend it if it’s available in your area.

You can bundle TV and home phone services with your AT&T internet plan. The company also offers mobile service.

How much does Google Fiber cost?

Google Fiber internet plans start at $70 per month for 1,000 Mbps speeds and go up to $100 per month for 2,000 Mbps speeds.

What is gigabit internet?

Gigabit internet is any internet connection that can transfer one gigabit of data per second (1 Gbps or 1,000 Mbps). A bit is a single piece of internet data, and a gigabit is one million bits.

Are fiber internet and gigabit internet the same thing?

Many fiber-optic internet providers offer gigabit speeds, but fiber internet and gigabit internet are not the same thing. Fiber refers to the type of internet, while gigabit refers to the speed. It is possible to have gigabit internet that is not fiber—for example, many cable internet providers offer gigabit internet speeds. And many fiber internet providers offer slower speed tiers.

But even if it doesn’t offer gigabit speeds, fiber internet is still the best option for fast upload speeds, minimal network congestion, and low latency.

How do I get fiber internet?

You can get fiber internet if it’s available in your area. But unless you already live in an area with fiber internet service, it will be difficult to get connected to fiber. If you live close enough to a fiber service area, you might be able to convince your local provider to run a dedicated line to your home, but that could cost thousands of dollars.

If you’re not sure whether you live in a fiber area or not, run your zip code in our tool to check for fiber internet providers near you.

 

Sources

  1. Federal Communications Commission, “Compare Broadband Availability in Different Areas,” December 2019. Accessed March 24, 2021.
  2. Jessica Rosenworcel, Federal Communications Commission, “Statement of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Dissenting,” January 2021. Accessed March 24, 2021.
  3. Peter Christiansen, HighSpeedInternet.com, “Why Can I Only Get a Few Internet Providers?,” October 27, 2020. Accessed March 24, 2021.
  4. Kate Patrick, Government Technology, “FCC to Rework Its Inaccurate National Broadband Maps,” August 6, 2019. Accessed March 29, 2021.
  5. Seattle Times staff, The Seattle Times, “Frontier to Finalize $1.35 Billion Sale of Northwest Assets to Kirkland-Based Ziply Fiber,” May 1, 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021.