What Is Fiber Internet and How Does It Work?Updated February 24, 2023 Connectivity
Fiber internet is a high-speed internet connection that uses fiber-optic cables to transmit data. In the United States, fiber internet is becoming increasingly popular due to its speed and reliability. While fiber internet is not yet available in all areas, it is being rolled out by major internet service providers to meet growing demand.
Best Fiber Internet Providers in 2023
- Google Fiber
- AT&T Fiber
- Verizon Fios
- Quantum Fiber (previously CenturyLink Fiber)
- Frontier Fiber
- Optimum Fiber
- Kinetic Fiber by Windstream
What Is Fiber Optic Internet?
Fiber internet has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its fast and reliable connection speeds. Unlike traditional copper-based internet connections, fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables to transmit data, which allows for better bandwidth and faster upload and download speeds.
Fiber internet is ideal for streaming video, gaming, and transferring large amounts of data. As a result, the best internet service providers have begun offering fiber internet to homes and businesses, and the demand for this technology is only expected to grow in the coming years.
Best Fiber Internet Providers in 2023
✅ Competitive pricing
❌ Limited availability in only a few, select cities
✅ Ultra-high upload and download speeds
❌ Doesn't have many plan options
✅ Includes up to 2 Google Wi-Fi devices
❌ Slow to expand to other U.S. regions
Available Speeds: 1,000 to 2,000 Mbps
Price Range: $70-$100 per month
Data Cap: None
Contract Required: No
Google Fiber - Company Overview
Launched in 2016, Google Fiber was one of the first companies to explore fiber optic internet. Today, they are still one of the best fiber internet providers in the country. Google Fiber boasts some of the highest internet speeds in the industry, offering flexible plans with no data caps and no contracts.
With a Google Fiber plan, all equipment and installation are included at no extra cost. Up to two Google wi-fi points are included, which typically cost $70-120 if you were to purchase them separately. Google Fiber claims to have 99.9% reliable connectivity, so you don't have to worry about network outages.
The biggest downside to Google Fiber is its geographical reach. Right now, it is only available in 19 cities and 13 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas/Missouri (Kansas City), Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Washington.
After a years-long hiatus, Google will soon be expanding its fiber internet services to 2 more states (Arizona and Nebraska) and 6 more cities, with plans to continue expansion across the nation. However, it could still be a very long time before Google Fiber comes to your location, especially if you do not live in a city.
Google Fiber – Plans & Pricing
Google Fiber offers only two, simple plan options: 1-Gig for $70 or 2-Gig for $100 per month (with plans to roll out a 5-Gig service for $125 soon.) So, you won't find any slower, cheaper tiered-pricing options here. That said, if you live in one of Google's "fiber cities" and value blazing internet speeds, then you will find that Google Fiber is hard to beat.
✅ Wide availability
❌ $99 professional installation fee
✅ Several plans and pricing options to suit customer needs
❌ You may have to rent equipment for an additional monthly charge
✅ Offers Multi-Gig internet speeds
❌ More expensive than other fiber internet providers
Available Speeds: 300 to 5,000 Mbps
Price Range: $55 to $180 per month
Data Cap: None
Contract Required: No
AT&T Fiber - Company Overview
AT&T Fiber is the most widely available fiber internet service in the United States. Currently, over 16 million people living in over 40 states can get high speed fiber internet service through AT&T.
At up to 5 Gigs, their internet speeds are impressive, to say the least. But, not everyone needs such lightning speeds. Customers can choose from a variety of plans designed to suit their unique needs.
If you want a technician to set up your fiber internet at home, there is a $99 installation fee. There is no fee for self-installation. Some households also have to rent AT&T wi-fi equipment for an extra monthly charge in order to get wi-fi coverage for their entire home.
AT&T Fiber – Plans & Pricing
Plans range from $55 per month for 300 Mbps internet speeds (which is still 15 times faster than regular cable internet) to $180 per month for 5 Gigs (5,000 Mbps.) Their 1-Gig plan costs $80 per month and 2-Gig costs $110 per month, which is $10 more than Google Fiber's plans offering the same speeds.
Although slightly on the expensive end, AT&T Fiber offers an attractive fiber internet package. Every plan has unlimited data, no contract requirement, and the price does not increase annually. AT&T's internet service has 99% reliability, as well as equal upload and download speeds.
Overall, AT&T Fiber is one of the top fiber internet companies. It is a great choice for customers who want to only pay for how much internet they actually need. If you live in one of the states where AT&T Fiber is available, it is certainly worth exploring.
✅ Save money with a variety of bundled offers
❌ Only available in mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the United States
✅ Frequently offers enticing sign-up bonuses
❌ Does not offer internet speeds over 1 Gbps
✅ Established, reliable company with great customer service
❌ Highest-tier plan is more expensive than other fiber internet providers
Available Speeds: 300 to 940 Mbps
Price Range: $49.99 to $89.99 per month
Data Cap: None
Contract Required: No
Verizon Fios – Company Overview
Verizon Fios launched in 2004 as one of the earliest companies to begin offering fiber optic internet. However, it was and still is more of a boutique internet service than one for the general public, due to limited availability.
Currently, Verizon Fios is only accessible to customers living in eight states, located in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the United States, and Washington, D.C. The available states are Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
Verizon Fios – Plans & Pricing
For the customers living in their service area, Verizon Fios offers 3 plan options: 300 Mbps internet speeds for $49.99 per month, 500 Mbps internet speeds for $69.99 per month, and 940 Mbps for $89.99 per month. Their lower-tier plans have middle-of-the-pack pricing, while their highest-tier plan is more expensive.
Verizon Fios often throws in extra perks for customers who sign up for a fiber internet plan. Right now, a Walmart+ Membership comes included with your purchase of Verizon Fios. In the past, a free subscription to the Disney+ TV streaming service was included.
Verizon also offers many bundling options. In many cases, you can get fiber internet much cheaper than standard pricing if you bundle it with your phone or TV service.
Verizon Fios is a serious contender in the fiber internet marketplace. Even though they don't offer internet speeds faster than 1 Gbps, Verizon Fios is a great option for customers who want to bundle fiber internet with other Verizon services. If you happen to live within their service region, you can't go wrong with Verizon Fios.
Quantum Fiber (previously CenturyLink Fiber)
✅ Has some of the cheapest pricing on fiber internet
❌ Only has two plan options
✅ Offers free 24/7 online customer service and tech support
❌ Does not offer Multi-Gig internet speeds
✅ Rapidly expanding geographical reach
❌ Pricing is not guaranteed, can change anytime
Available Speeds: 200 to 940 Mbps
Price Range: $49 to $70 per month
Data Cap: None
Contract Required: No
Quantum Fiber - Company Overview
Quantum Fiber, formerly called CenturyLink Fiber, is a rapidly growing fiber internet company that offers fast, cheap, reliable fiber internet to millions of households in the United States. Right now, CenturyLink Fiber is available for around 3 million locations across 16 states.
Available states include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. In 2023, the company plans to expand to more areas.
Quantum Fiber - Plans & Pricing
Currently, Quantum Fiber has only two plan options for customers to choose from. Both of these plans have unlimited data and no contract requirements, so there's no need to fret about overage charges or cancellation fees. As a bonus, Quantum Fiber's internet plans also come with free around the clock, 24/7 online customer service and tech support.
There are no Multi-Gig or Middle-Tier plan options, but Quantum Fiber has an edge over its competition in terms of affordability. At $30 per month for 200 Mbps speeds and $70 per month for 940 Mbps speeds, Quantum Fiber has some of the least expensive fiber internet plans in the country.
However, it is not guaranteed that you will always be charged the same rate for the plan you sign up for. The fine print on Quantum Fiber's website notes that their plan pricing is subject to change at any time.
Quantum Fiber is certainly worth exploring if it is available in your area. It is an especially great budget option for customers who want to upgrade their internet speeds but don't need to go over speeds of 1 Gbps.
✅ Inexpensive, tiered-pricing plan options
❌ Contract is required to receive sign-up bonuses
✅ Wi-fi router included for no extra charge
❌ History of poor customer service (though improving)
✅ Offers extremely fast, Multi-Gig internet speeds
❌ $50 installation fee unless you purchase 1 Gbps plan or higher
Available Speeds: 500 Mbps to 5 Gbps
Price Range: $44.99 per month to $154.99 per month
Data Cap: No
Contract Required: None (except for sign-up bonuses)
Frontier Fiber - Company Overview
Frontier Fiber is currently available to United States residents living in 15 states, primarily metropolitan areas. Available states include Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Their top fiber internet speeds rival the biggest names in the industry, and they allow customers to choose from a wide selection of competitively-priced plans tailored to meet their internet usage needs.
The biggest negative factor you should be aware of if you are considering purchasing fiber internet from Frontier is the company's history of low customer satisfaction. In 2019 and 2020, Frontier Fiber ranked at the bottom of the American Customer Satisfaction Index. However, in the past two years, the company has steadily improved its ranking. It is still below the industry average, but Frontier says it is making efforts to boost its customer service reputation.
Frontier Fiber - Plans & Pricing
Their four plan options range from $44.99 per month for 500 Mbps to $154.99 for 5 Gbps (specific pricing and special offers vary depending on your location), making them some of the lowest fiber internet plans in the industry. At $69.99 per month, their 1-Gig plan is on par with Google Fiber and Quantum Fiber. All of these plans include unlimited data and a free Wifi router.
Frontier Fiber advertises no contract requirements for their fiber internet plans. While this is true, there is a slight caveat. The fiber internet provider often incentivizes customers with perks, like a $200 Visa Reward Card. However, these rewards require customers to sign a 1-year term agreement. So, as long as you turn down Frontier Fiber's sign-on bonuses, there is no contract required.
If you purchase Frontier Fiber's 1-Gig plan or higher, professional installation is included. If you sign up for a cheaper plan, there is an installation fee, which varies depending on your location (but is typically around $85).
✅ Bundling options help customers save money on fiber internet
❌ Only available in a few Northeastern states
✅ Tiered-pricing plans with Multi-Gig options have something for everyone
❌ 5-Gig plan is only available in parts of New York and Connecticut
✅ Offers a 30-day money-back guarantee
❌ Price hikes possible after the first year
Available Speeds: 300 Mbps to 5 Gbps
Price Range: $40 per month to $180 per month
Data Cap: None
Contract Required: No
Optimum Fiber - Company Overview
Based in New York, Optimum Fiber is one of the newest companies to begin offering fiber internet. Right now, residents in parts of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have access to their fiber network.
Optimum Fiber offers internet speeds of up to 5 Gpbs, with equal upload and download speeds. This is impressive, although their highest speeds are only available in certain areas of New York and Connecticut.
Optimum Fiber offers 24/7 online and phone customer support. They also have a 99.9% reliable fiber internet connection, excluding power outages and blackouts. All things considered, Optimum Fiber is a great option for budget-conscious Northeasterners who want fast, reliable fiber internet.
Optimum Fiber - Plans & Pricing
Plans range from $40 per month for 300 Mbps to $180 per month for 5 Gbps. These prices are pretty low, compared to other fiber internet providers. However, keep in mind that Optimum may raise the price after one year.
On the upside, there are no contract requirements, so you are not locked in if you want to change ISPs. There are also no data caps, and all equipment, including routers and extenders, are included. Optimum Fiber also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee to ensure customers are happy with their fiber internet service.
Self-installation is free, while there is an extra $59 cost for professional installation. If you opt for professional installation, then Optimum Fiber promises your technician will arrive on time, or they will pay you $20.
Optimum Fiber has bundling options to help customers save money on fiber internet. You can bundle your fiber internet with TV or phone service through Optimum to get lower prices.
Kinetic Fiber by Windstream
✅ Rural availability
❌ Available speeds and pricing vary widely by location
✅ 1-Gig upgrade charges are only billed after the third month
❌ Price increases after one year
✅ Offers a 30-day money-back guarantee
❌ No internet security plan included
Available Speeds: 200 Mbps to 2000 Mbps
Price Range: $39.99 to $169.99 per month (plus upgrade fees)
Data Cap: None
Contract Required: No
Kinetic Fiber - Company Overview
Unlike most fiber internet providers, Windstream's Kinetic Fiber focuses on offering fiber internet service to rural and suburban areas. As of now, Kinetic Fiber is available to around 4 million people living in 18 U.S. states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. However, the majority of coverage is in Georgia, Kentucky, and Texas.
Kinetic Fiber by Windstream offers up to 2 Gbps internet speeds in some areas. However, specific plans, pricing, and speeds vary greatly depending on location. For some households, plans start at 200 Mbps, and for others, they start at 500 Mbps. But, customers are often charged the same price for these plans even though their internet speeds are not the same.
Kinetic Fiber - Plans & Pricing
The way Windstream prices its Kinetic Fiber plans is complicated. The starting price for a 200 Mbps or 500 Mbps plan (depending on where you live) is $39.99. But, after one year, the price goes up to anywhere between $55-170.
Although Kinetic Fiber by Windstream offers 1 Gbps and 2 Gbps internet speeds, there is no plan available for purchase. Instead, customers must purchase a 200-500 Mbps plan, and then upgrade to higher speeds for an additional fee. For example, there is a $30 add-on fee per month for customers who want to upgrade to 1 Gbps fiber internet, where service is available.
The good news is that the upgrade fee is not billed until the fourth month, so customers don't have to pay an extra $30 for the first three months. If you qualify for this offer, it is certainly worth considering.
There is a $50 activation fee for new customers, and unlike most fiber internet companies, Kinetic Fiber by Windstream does not include security free of charge with their plans. Instead, you have to pay an additional $10-15 per month for a security plan.
Renting equipment from Windstream costs $7-10 per month, but you can use your own modem and router instead. Windstream also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so if you are unhappy with the service after the first month, you can get a refund.
How Does Fiber Internet Work?
Fiber optic internet works by using light to transfer data through thin glass or plastic fibers. Unlike traditional cable internet, which uses coaxial cables to transmit data, fiber optic internet uses a series of tiny glass or plastic fibers to transmit information. These fibers are transparent and extremely thin, allowing light to travel through them with very little loss of signal.
When you send data over fiber optic internet, your device converts the data into a light signal that travels down the fiber optic cable to the internet service provider's network. The light signal is then translated back into data that can be sent to the destination. Because light travels at a much faster speed than electricity, fiber optic internet can provide faster and more reliable internet speeds than cable internet.
How Fast Is Fiber Internet?
Fiber optic internet can be extremely fast. Most internet providers offer speeds that range from 100 Mbps to 2 Gbps or higher.
The exact speed of fiber internet will depend on several factors, such as the specific fiber provider and the package that you choose. Generally speaking, fiber internet is faster than cable internet.
Fiber internet with speeds of 1 Gbps or higher is considered to be "gigabit internet." This level of speed is suitable for households with multiple users and devices, as well as for those who use the internet for high-bandwidth activities such as streaming 4k video, playing online games, or downloading large files quickly. With fiber internet, you can experience fast, reliable internet that can support all of your online needs without slowing down during peak usage times.
How Much Is Fiber Internet?
The cost of fiber internet can vary depending on several factors, including the specific internet provider, location, and fiber service plan that you choose. On average, fiber internet is typically more expensive than cable internet, with prices ranging from $50 to $150 or more per month.
Some fiber providers may offer introductory prices or discounts for new customers, so it's always a good idea to shop around for the best internet plan and pricing in your area. Many providers offer bundled packages that include TV and home phone services for additional savings.
Many households qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides broadband internet to American homes at a significant discount. The goal of this government-funded program is to ensure all Americans have access to high speed internet.
5 Benefits of Fiber Internet
1. High Speeds Up and Down
Fiber optic internet provides an incredibly fast download speed and upload speed, making it ideal for heavy internet users, such as gamers and people who work from home. Fiber also provides a large amount of bandwidth, allowing multiple users to connect to the internet at once and perform demanding tasks, such as streaming high-definition videos.
Fiber optic cables use light to transmit data, which allows for much faster data transmission compared to traditional copper cables. This makes fiber optic internet one of the fastest and most reliable forms of broadband internet available. The actual internet speed of a fiber connection depends on a number of factors, including the technology used, the provider, and the location, but speeds of 1 Gbps or higher are common. In comparison, traditional broadband internet speeds are usually in the range of 10 Mbps to 100 Mbps and do not reach gigabit speed.
2. Reliable Connection
One major advantage of fiber optic internet is that the light signals do not interfere with each other, even if multiple users are transmitting data at the same time. This results in a more stable and consistent connection, even during peak usage times.
Fiber optic internet is generally considered to be very reliable. Because fiber optic cables use light to transmit data, they are less susceptible to interference and signal degradation than traditional copper cables. This makes fiber optic connections less likely to experience disruptions or slowdowns, even during periods of heavy network traffic. Additionally, fiber optic cables are less prone to physical damage than copper cables, which makes fiber optic internet more reliable in terms of physical connectivity.
That being said, no technology is immune to issues, and fiber optic internet can still experience outages or slowdowns from time to time. However, these issues are typically rare and are often the result of problems with network infrastructure or equipment, rather than the fiber optic cable itself. Overall, fiber optic internet is known for its high levels of reliability, which is why it is often the preferred choice for businesses and other organizations that require a fast and dependable internet connection.
3. Smart Investment
Fiber optic technology is able to support new and emerging technologies, making it a good investment for the future.
Fiber optic internet is considered to be "future-proof" because it offers several advantages that make it well-suited to meet the increasing demand for bandwidth and data transmission speed in the future. It is well-equipped to meet the increasing demand for fast, reliable, and secure internet connections far into the future.
4. Improved Security
Fiber optic internet provides a more secure connection compared to other forms of internet, as it is more difficult for hackers to tap into fiber-optic cables. Fiber optic cables are also non-metallic, and therefore immune to electromagnetic interference that can cause security vulnerabilities.
Physically, fiber optic cables are more secure than other types of cables, as they are made of glass or plastic fibers that are encased in protective material. This makes them more difficult to access and less susceptible to physical damage.
Fiber optic internet provides a high level of security for transmitting sensitive information, making it a great choice for households that require a fast and secure internet connection. However, as with any internet connection, it is important to follow good cybersecurity practices (such as using strong passwords) to protect against phishing and other cyber attacks.
5. Reduced latency
Fiber optic internet has lower latency than other forms of internet, meaning there is less lag time for online activities, such as video conferencing and online gaming. Fiber optic cables provide a direct connection to the internet, so data doesn't have to travel far or stop at many places before reaching its destination. Since fiber optic cables use light to send data, transfer speeds are very fast and data can be sent over long distances without latency.
Fiber optic cables are more than just fast – they have a high bandwidth capacity. Large amounts of data can be transferred at the same time, which greatly helps to reduce latency. And thanks to the reliable connection of fiber internet, there are fewer disruptions or slow-downs in service that can also cause latency.
Internet with low latency is important for apps that require instant, real-time communication, such as online gaming, video conferencing, and financial transactions, as it allows data to be transmitted quickly and reliably.
Is there a downside to fiber internet?
Fiber internet is the fastest and most reliable type of internet connection. However, there are also some disadvantages to keep in mind. For example, fiber internet is not yet available in all areas, so it may not even be an option for you yet. Fiber optic internet is more expensive than other forms of internet, such as cable or DSL. The installation process for fiber internet can also be more complicated and costly, and you may need to install new equipment or upgrade existing equipment.
Fiber internet relies on physical fiber-optic cables, so any damage to these cables can disrupt your internet service. Of course, this is true for cable and DSL cables as well. Although fiber internet has many benefits, you should weigh the benefits against the costs and determine if it’s a suitable investment for your home.
Fiber vs Cable vs DSL
Fiber internet, cable internet, and DSL internet are all types of high-speed internet connections, but they differ in the way they transmit data.
Fiber internet is the fastest and most reliable option of the three. It uses fiber-optic cables to transmit data, which allows for very reliable high-speed internet. This type of internet is ideal for people who need to do data-intensive activities like gaming or streaming video.
Cable internet uses a coaxial cable to transmit data. This method is faster than DSL but slower than fiber internet. Cable internet is widely available and can support multiple users and devices, but the speed can become slow when a large number of people use it at the same time.
DSL internet, or Digital Subscriber Line, uses telephone lines to transmit data. It is the slowest of the three types of internet connections and may struggle to handle data-intensive activities. However, it is still a widely used and accessible option, particularly in rural areas. DSL is also typically the cheapest option of the three. While DSL internet can still support everyday web browsing and email, it may not be the best choice for households that have multiple users and need to stream video or play games.
Is Fiber Internet the Best Choice for My Home?
Fiber internet is becoming increasingly popular and is a great choice for households with multiple users and devices. Fiber broadband uses light to transmit data, which is faster and more reliable than DSL and cable internet.
Keep in mind that fiber optic internet is often more expensive than cable or DSL, and may not be available in all areas. Ultimately, the choice between fiber optic and cable internet will depend on your household’s needs, budget, and availability in your neighborhood.
Fiber is a great choice for home internet access. Everyone in your household can stream videos, play games, do homework, and download files simultaneously without experiencing any lag or buffering. The fast and reliable connection is also great for maintaining smart home hubs and home security systems. If service is available where you live, fiber internet is a wise investment that can greatly enhance the connectivity of your home.