From the inexpensive DSL to popular cable, there’s an Internet option for any user’s preference. One of the newer and lesser known options is fiber Internet. Instead of running through a phone line or cable cord, fiber-optic Internet data is carried by light through glass fiber cables as thin as a human hair. Information can travel at lightning fast speeds over long distances, resulting in a high-speed connection.
For those interested in fiber Internet, this article will provide a more in-depth look at fiber services and explore offerings from some of the bigger providers in the industry.
The Benefits of Fiber Internet
The top benefit of fiber Internet is its high-speed capacity. Subscribers can reach download speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second, which is around 100 times faster than the standard 11.7 Mbps most U.S. consumers have. This makes fiber Internet ideal for subscribers who frequently stream HD movies, download large files, and play web-based games. If a user wanted to download a two-hour HD movie — a file size between 3 and 4.5 GB — with a 5 Mbps broadband Internet connection, for example, it would take 72 minutes to download the file. Even if a subscriber could reliably get speeds up to 20 Mbps, such a sizeable download would still take 60 minutes. With a 1 Gbps fiber connection, however, the file would be downloaded in just 25 seconds.
Additionally, fiber Internet is extremely reliable — more so than DSL, satellite, and cable. This is largely because fiber Internet is what is called a “passive system” that doesn’t require power to be applied within the network. And since the cables are made of glass, the transmission fibers remain immune to most types of interference. With proper backup power for in-house electronics, a fiber subscriber could potentially stay connected during a storm with limited concern about lightning-related damage, unlike DSL and cable users.
The Disadvantages of Fiber Internet
The biggest sticking point of fiber Internet is the price. Fiber Internet is currently more expensive than most DSL, cable, or satellite Internet plans due to the fact that usable fiber infrastructures don’t widely exist. As fiber providers work to expand their networks, though, subscribers can expect costs to drop somewhat, as the setup is easier to maintain than other options.
The second biggest drawback to fiber Internet is its availability. As of 2014, the United States has just 7.7 percent penetration of fiber-optic links, trailing behind more than a dozen other developed countries. Installing a new fiber-optic network is a time-consuming process for service providers, especially when so many consumers continue to rely on DSL and cable Internet. However, as more users recognize the advantages of fiber Internet and demand the service, more companies are planning to install fiber-optic networks to meet the demand.
The Best Networks for Fiber Internet
Currently, there are more than two dozen fiber or fiber-hybrid Internet providers available in various areas across the U.S. A few of the top players are AT&T, Frontier, and CenturyLink.
AT&T U-verse® provides TV, Internet, and Voice services to customers in more than a dozen cities across the United States. Through its AT&T GigaPower™ option, the company offers fiber Internet with speeds of up to 1 Gbps for around $110 per month for 12 months with a one-year term, though there are smaller plans available as well.
In regard to bundles, the Double Play package includes fiber Internet and TV services for $120 per month for 36 months with a one-year term, while the Triple Play package includes TV, Internet, and Voice services for $150 per month for 36 months with a one-year term.
As an added bonus to the company’s already solid offerings, AT&T is currently working to offer fiber Internet to 38 new cities.
FiOS from Frontier
FiOS® from Frontier offers at least three fiber Internet packages to customers in more than 25 states. The most popular package is the Simply FiOS Broadband 50/50, which starts at $59.99 per month for upstream and downstream speeds of up to 50 Mbps. This plan also comes with a 3-Year Price Guarantee with No Contract. These fiber Internet speeds are slower than some other fiber providers, but the lack of a term contract on certain services is a big selling point. Additionally, FiOS customers receive free 24/7 tech support, Frontier Mail with eight additional email accounts, and 5 GB of storage on each account.
For a bit of a discount, customers can bundle services with the FiOS Broadband 30/30 + Digital Voice Unlimited. The plan starts at $55.98 per month and includes Internet speeds of up to 30 Mbps and a phone line with unlimited local and nationwide calling. Another popular package, the FiOS Broadband 30/30 + FiOS Prime HD + Digital Phone Unlimited, starts at $89.99 per month, and it includes Internet speeds of up to 30 Mbps, 225 TV channels, and a phone line.
CenturyLink Fiber Internet
CenturyLink offers fiber Internet connections in more than 10 major cities and is working on expanding its network even further. For residential services, packages start as low as $29.95 per month for speeds up to 40 Mbps with a one-year contract, depending on the area. Prices and speeds jump up significantly from there, with the next available tier running $69.95 per month for speeds up to 100 Mbps on a one-year contract. Gigabit speeds, where available, cost around $109.95 per month with a one-year agreement.
Commercial businesses can also take advantage of the company’s high speeds — in fact, the company recently announced that its continued fiber network expansion will cater to business needs.
Although fiber is the most expensive Internet option and isn’t available in all areas, the perks outweigh the cons for many regular Internet users. For those who require fast Internet for a household with multiple users or who want to avoid lags and possible power outages, fiber Internet is the best choice. Interested consumers should check to see if fiber Internet is available in their area and, if so, which providers offer the best packages. If fiber Internet isn’t available, fear not. Fiber is quickly expanding to new locations and, for now, there are plenty of cable, satellite, or DSL companies providing services in the interim.
*Pricing and speeds are current as of writing. Pricing and speeds are subject to change. Not all offers available in all areas.