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. g

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

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. Everyone loves a great deal, especially when it comes to monthly services. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) understand this principle, which is why many of them offer free equipment or other perks when you sign up for service. If you’re not sure what perks your current ISP offers, or if you’re shopping for a new ISP altogether, this guide will help you figure out which provider is offering a deal that you simply can’t refuse.   XFINITY You’re probably familiar with some basic XFINITY® offerings, including fast speeds and a rapidly expanding service area, but what you may not know is that every XFINITY customer also has access to an additional service called Internet on the Go. With Internet on the Go, subscribers have free access to over 8 million hotspots nationwide. This extensive coverage, paired with the XFINITY Connect™ app, makes it easy to keep track of appointments and check email away from home. Another perk is Constant Guard® by XFINITY. All XFINITY Internet customers receive basic online security protection via the Norton™ Security Suite, which provides protection against viruses and spyware. The company also makes it easy to add upgrades to regular monthly bills.   Charter Spectrum Charter Spectrum is one of the only ISPs that provides customers with a free modem across most plan offerings — including bundles. This helps reduce overall monthly costs, as it saves users from paying a rental fee for this necessary equipment. Another feature that Charter Spectrum offers is month-to-month service. Customers can enjoy reliable, fast Internet without being tied down to a contract. This gives users flexibility and freedom to choose the Internet plan that makes the most sense for them, even if their needs change. In fact, Charter Spectrum is so committed to abolishing contracts that certain new customers may qualify for up to a $500 buyout to help them get out of a current contract with another provider.   CenturyLink All CenturyLink Internet plans include basic protection from CenturyLink @Ease® online security by Norton™. Customers can adjust their level of security coverage and take advantage of the peace of mind that comes with Identity Guard for an additional monthly fee. The company also offers a 30-day Satisfaction Guarantee for new Internet customers, a policy that ensures any user who is not satisfied with their CenturyLink service can cancel within 30 days and receive a credit for all Internet service charges, modem or router charges, shipping fees, activation fees, and any other applicable taxes or other surcharges. As an added bonus, subscribers can avoid installation fees by opting for CenturyLink’s self-installation kit, which includes everything necessary to get an Internet connection up and running. Plus, customers who order a CenturyLink bundle online may qualify for a prepaid Visa card worth up to $150. The company also offers prepaid Visa cards for customers who refer friends and family members to CenturyLink.   Cox Subscribers enjoy a variety of free services with their Cox High Speed Internet™ plan. The company starts things on the right foot by waiving installation fees, but it doesn’t stop there. Cox gives customers a free Cox email account with Cloud storage, which is protected by free security through the Cox Security Suite powered by McAfee®. The Security Suite also provides antivirus protection and an online app that customers can use to check the security of their home wireless network. Additionally, Cox gives High Speed Internet subscribers access to Music Choice, a portal that offers a wide selection of music channels, videos, and original programming. Customers can listen to more than 50 pre-made channels or create their own music channels and video playlists.   Windstream Windstream offers its subscribers the ability to sign up for High Speed Internet without the hassle of a long-term contract. Very few other ISPs provide such a winning combination of flexibility and security. Windstream’s solid plan offerings are backed up by an extensive 24/7 help network. In addition to a large library of online support resources, Windstream also provides real-time assistance via their virtual agent, Wendy. Customers can chat live with Wendy, email questions to support, or call the help line directly at any time, day or night.   AT&T AT&T U-verse® Internet plans include up to 11 email accounts and 2 GB of secure online storage. In addition, U-verse customers have access to AT&T’s extensive network of public Wi-Fi hotspots across the country and internationally. Users can consult the company’s Wi-Fi location map to find hotspots, whether they are close to home or on vacation. This allows U-verse customers consistent access to their Internet service and other network resources. U-verse also offers one particular benefit that most other ISPs don’t: a battery backup. This device will keep customers’ Internet services up and running, even if the power goes out. The backup only extends power for a few hours, but that can be the difference between saving a current project and losing hours of work. For customers who live in areas where severe weather often affects power, this perk could be a lifesaver.   In addition to all of these great perks, several of the above listed companies offer further discounts for subscribers with limited financial means. So no matter what your situation, if you need Internet service, there are ISPs that can provide the benefits you want. Now that you know the kinds of perks that are out there, it’s time to stop browsing and start shopping. Check out providers in your area today. From DSL to cable to fiber, Internet subscribers are faced with seemingly endless choices when it comes to connection options. While DSL and cable are widely popular services, fiber Internet is unfamiliar territory for many. Despite its smaller user base, fiber-optic Internet actually offers many unique benefits compared to DSL and cable. If you’re considering switching to fiber Internet, this is the guide for you.   What is fiber Internet and how does it work? Unlike DSL or cable, fiber Internet relies on optical cables that are composed of thousands of thin strands of glass that contain three parts — the core, the cladding, and the buffer coating. The cable transmits data via light signals that travel through the core, and the light is reflected back by the cladding, allowing signals to travel along the cable.   What are the benefits of fiber Internet? The greatest advantage of fiber Internet is its speed. It’s the fastest Internet option available because its optical cables can quickly carry large amounts of data over long distances. Some fiber connections offer downstream speeds of up to 1 Gbps, which is over 50 times faster than the national average of 18.2 Mbps. If you frequently download music, use Internet-based programs, or stream movies, you’ll quickly notice the difference between fiber Internet and cable or DSL. Another big benefit is that fiber Internet is very reliable. The system network doesn’t generate or carry electricity, meaning your fiber Internet connection is less likely to be interrupted during a power outage. As an added bonus, this also reduces risk of electrical or fire damage. Finally, fiber Internet is private. A dedicated network is installed in your home so you don’t have to share the Internet with any neighbors. This makes your Internet connection somewhat more secure from network traffic lags.   What companies offer fiber Internet? There are more than two dozen fiber Internet providers, from the popular AT&T to local companies such as Cincinnati Bell. Google Fiber is one of the newer providers on the market and is working on expanding its network beyond the three locations it currently services.   Is fiber Internet available in my area? In order for fiber Internet to work, the Internet provider has to build a network infrastructure in each geographic area it seeks to service. That’s why fiber Internet isn’t readily available across the country and is especially lacking in rural areas. For comparison, 89 percent of the U.S. has access to cable Internet providers, whereas only 25 percent can use fiber Internet. However, fiber Internet’s availability is quickly expanding into more markets. The best way to find out if fiber Internet is available in your area is to check with individual Internet providers. Many providers make it easy for you to check availability by looking up your ZIP code.   What equipment do I need for fiber Internet? Fiber to the Home (FTTH) services — where fiber cables run from the provider to your residence, instead of terminating at a remote hub — do not require a separate modem. Instead, they use a terminal to translate light pulses into electric signals that your computer can recognize. You may still need a router to provide a wireless access point to your Internet connection. Some providers offer routers with their fiber packages, but if you want to purchase your own, you’ll need to make sure it’s capable of handling the speeds you’ve subscribed to. As a general rule, your fiber Internet provider will be able to supply some of this basic connection hardware, though you’ll want to confirm if there will be any associated costs beforehand.   Should I switch to fiber Internet? Fiber Internet can save you hours of wasted time downloading large files, loading Internet-based programs, or streaming video or music. And as industry competition increases, prices are becoming more reasonable. If you want a reliable Internet connection that offers the fastest speeds available, fiber Internet is your best option. Start researching local fiber providers to make the switch.
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