Fiber optic internet, also known as “fiber internet” or just “fiber,” uses thin cables made of glass or plastic fibers to transfer data as light signals. This type of internet connection can support faster, more reliable download and upload speeds compared to DSL and cable internet networks. As a relatively new internet technology, fiber optic service is quickly growing in popularity and availability.

Most gigabit internet providers use a fiber optic network, but not all fiber internet connections are the same. Depending on where you live, you may have access to FTTN, FTTH or FTTC networks.

FTTN – fiber to the node

Fiber to the node (FTTN) connections use fiber optic cables to carry data to a hub close to your home. From this point, DSL or coaxial cables carry the data the rest of the way.

FTTN connections can also be referred to as “hybrid fiber coaxial network” or HFC, and are common connection types from cable internet providers. Since this type of connection isn’t pure fiber, the connection is not as reliable or fast when it comes to upload speeds. 

FTTC – fiber to the curb

Fiber to the curb (FTTC) connections carry the fiber optic signals further than FTTN connections, stopping just short of your house, or at the “curb.” 

FTTC does still use a DSL or coaxial cable to bridge the gap between your home and the street, which can leave your connection susceptible to signal interference just like with FTTN.

FTTH – fiber to the home

Fiber to the home (FTTH) connections employ fiber optic cables all the way to your home. Also known as “fiber to the premises,” FTTH offers the best in bandwidth, reliability and speed consistency.

AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier FiberOptic and Verizon Fios claim to offer a 100% fiber network in select areas.

Compare fiber optic internet providers

Many of the internet providers listed also have more plan options using a cable or DSL network. Additionally, some providers, including Frontier, Verizon and Kinetic by Windstream, have multiple fiber plans available, so the lowest-priced plan does not necessarily come with the provider’s max fastest speeds.

Check to see how fiber internet connections differ from top internet service providers, compare costs and check to see which providers are available at your home.

ProviderNumber of fiber plansPrice rangeDownload speed range
AT&T Logo3$35.00-$60.00/mo.*300 – 940 Mbps
1$49.00 – $65.00/mo.**20 – 1,000 Mbps
Cox Logo1$29.00 – $99.99/mo.*10 – 940 Mbps
Frontier Logo3$49.99 – $199.99/mo.*50 – 940 Mbps
Optimum3$45.00 – $80.00/mo.*300 – 940 Mbps
Suddenlink3$35.00 – $75.00/mo.*100 – 1,000 Mbps
3$39.99 – $79.99/mo.*200 – 940 Mbps
Windstream Logo1$25.00 – $67.00/mo.*15 – 1,000 Mbps
Xfinity logo1$24.99 – $299.99/mo.*50 – 2,000 Mbps

What is fiber optic internet good for?

Compared to other internet types, such as cable and DSL, fiber optic internet is perfect for many uses, including some of the more demanding online tasks.

  • Streaming TV – Fiber’s high speeds and connection quality make it ideal for streaming with little to no buffering, even in HD or 4K.
  • Downloading shows/movies/games – The gigabit speeds available from most fiber internet providers cut download times for large files such as movies or games significantly. For example, you could download a 4 GB show in around 35 seconds with 1,000 Mbps, compared to nearly an hour with typical speeds from a DSL connection.
  • Gaming online – With fiber optic internet, data travels up to 70% the speed of light, making for extremely low lag, which is perfect for gamers.
  • Video conferencing – Fiber internet has fast upload speeds compared to cable and DSL internet, which are needed for video conferencing as well as uploading pictures and videos to social media.

Pros and cons of fiber internet

Advantages of fiber internet

  • Resistant to interference — Since fiber’s main conductor is glass, it provides a connection known for superior performance, reliability and high speeds.
  • Fastest speeds available —  Internet speeds can reach up to 1,000 Mbps (gigabit) or higher in select areas.
  • Becoming more affordable — Because more providers are now offering fiber internet and fiber optic networks cost less to maintain, prices for fiber internet have been getting more competitive over the last several years.

Disadvantages of fiber internet

  • Not typically available in rural areas — Fiber internet is still available mainly in metro and suburban areas. 
  • Higher start-up costs — Fiber optic networks cost more than other internet connection types to construct, which can lead to higher initial costs for providers and customers.
  • More complex installation  — Since fiber technology is newer, a provider may need to set up new lines to your home, and professional installation is typically required.

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