Abstract image of fiber optics

What is Fiber Internet?

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May 5, 2021

Whether you're looking to power your home, business, or workspace, everyone is looking for the fastest internet available. But finding the best internet can not only be confusing, it can also be expensive. The best forms of internet, like fiber internet, may seem out of your price range, or may just seem too good to be true.

This guide will explain the basics of fiber internet, how it works, and if it's worth it for you.

How it works 

Internet is characterized by the way it travels. DSL internet travels in telephone lines. Cable internet travels underground in cable TV lines. And fiber optic internet travels in fiber optic underground wires. A fiber optic wire is also different from the typical internet cable. DSL and cable wires are made of copper, but fiber optic cables are tubes full of glass and plastic particles that help them transmit information.

Unlike DSL or cable internet, fiber optic internet doesn't use electricity to do this. It uses light. The glass and plastic pieces in fiber optic wires let the light bounce quickly through the wires and arrive at their destination, even around curves and bends. This not only makes it much more efficient, but also a much faster form of internet.

Light signals can also travel farther from the source without breaking down like electrical signals do, so it's also available from much farther away.

Pros of fiber internet 

Now that you know how cutting-edge this fiber optic internet is, you'll also want to know what it can do for you. Let's talk about some of the pros.


The most popular characteristic of fiber optic internet is its speed. While cable internet is fast, fiber optic internet is much faster, especially when it comes to downloading.

Fiber optic plans typically offer 1,000 Megabits per second (Mbps). In other words, this internet is not only fast, but it would be difficult to slow down, even if you let all your friends use your Wi-Fi to download at the same time. This speed is also not constrained by distance! Because light travels at a much faster speed than electricity and can shoot past bends and curves, distance is less of an object for fiber optic internet.

In addition to download speeds, fiber optic internet also provides something known as symmetrical upload speed. This basically means that you will be able to upload items just as fast as you download them—which is very fast. This is great for those who work from home and upload large files or livestream.

Lastly, fiber optic internet does not slow down due to higher usage. Usually, with other forms of internet, yours will slow down when others begin using it. This especially happens during peak hours when everyone hops on the internet at the same time.

However, this is not the case with fiber optic. It still typically works on a shared network, so one line distributes the same internet across one area, but it doesn't slow down due to usage. If all your neighbors are online, you can be too. And it will be just as fast!


Fiber optic internet's reliability goes hand in hand with its speed. Because it never slows down due to high user volume or peak hours, it's reliable all the time. If you have a conference call to do from home and your kids have online classes — no worries! Fiber optic has you covered, and your internet won't slow down because of it.

In addition, certain forms of fiber optic internet don't even require a modem or equipment. This cuts down on technological issues, difficulties, and calls to tech support to fix your internet connection, making it altogether more reliable. 

Fiber optic internet is also reliable because it's much harder to interfere with. Just like cable, fiber optic wires are underground. This minimizes weather disruptions and outages. However, unlike cable wires, fiber optic wires are not disrupted by other electromagnetic noises. For instance, radio signals, power lines, or other cables don't interfere with your fiber optic coverage. Even lightning strikes won't interfere with your fiber coverage.  


Cable and other forms of internet have a shorter reach because they rely on electrical signals rather than light signals. These electrical signals often max out on how far they can travel because of the resistance in copper cables, slowing down in bends and turns, and the signals deteriorating due to long distances.

Fiber optic, on the other hand, has no resistance and can travel much farther to reach even the most remote customers in need of coverage.


The bandwidth of fiber optic internet is only limited by your electronics. There are no limits to how much you can use, how much you can stream, or how much you can upload or download at a time. The only limit is the carrying power of your own devices!

Cons of fiber internet 

While fiber internet may seem overwhelmingly great, there are some downsides to be aware of before switching over.


The biggest con of fiber optic coverage is that it has fairly low availability. Fiber internet only has about 30% coverage nationwide, while cable has around 90% coverage. This is due to a variety of factors such as cost, demand, and the fact that fiber optic cables must be laid brand new. New trenches have to be dug up, and new fiber optic cables must be laid down to provide this form of coverage.

While it is certainly expanding, fiber internet is still lacking in coverage compared to cable internet or other forms.


Another downside to fiber internet that keeps many from switching over is cost. Installation costs alone can be overwhelmingly expensive. Because the cables are underground, trenches have to be dug up and the wires placed in to install fiber optic cables.

The monthly cost for fiber optic can be anywhere from $100 per month to over $300 per month. This cost depends on whether you're powering a business or home, how far you are from a fiber optic location, and the speed you want. However, this cost is still drastically higher than most cable internet costs, which average around $25 per month to $100 per month.

While there are many pros of fiber optic internet, the lower availability and higher average costs are an important factor to weigh in on your decision!

Different forms of fiber internet

There are three different forms of fiber internet that are available in different scenarios.

1. Fiber to the premise (FTTP) 

Also known as fiber to the home, FTTP is a rarer form of fiber internet that doesn't use any cables. Internet goes directly to your home, business, office space, or premise without any wires necessary. It is the purest form of fiber internet currently available.

This form of internet is also the most reliable form. There is no modem or equipment required, which means there are almost no technical issues. However, few providers offer this form of fiber internet. For instance, Verizon Fios is one of the only providers that offers this form of fiber internet. 

2. Fiber to the building (FTTB) 

FFTB, or fiber to the building, is internet that only goes to one building. However, unlike FTTP, fiber to the building switches from fiber optic cables to copper wires once they reach the building. While this is a popular method of distributing internet throughout buildings like schools, apartments, hotels, and businesses, it is not a pure form of fiber internet because it does switch over to copper.

3. Fiber to the neighborhood (FTTN) 

Fiber to the neighborhood, or fiber to the node, is the most common form of fiber internet. This form has one location known as a "street cabinet" where it is then distributed to multiple houses in one neighborhood or area.

It is not a pure form of fiber internet, since it's distributed with regular copper cables from the street cabinet.

How to know if you need fiber internet 

Now that you understand the basics of fiber optic internet, its pros and cons, and what it means to switch over, you can now determine if it's right for you.

If you have a two-person household, you likely won't need as much speed or data as a six-person household. Smaller households can get away with a plan that offers speeds of 3-8 Mbps, while larger families may need speeds over 25 Mbps. In addition, many fiber optic internet plans offer 1000 Mbps.

The biggest factor that determines your internet needs is how much you download, upload, and what you use your internet for. For instance, if you are generally just browsing email and the web, you may need as little as 1 Mbps. If you learn remotely, browse social media, stream HD videos, and play online multiplayer games, you may need much more.

To learn more about how much coverage you need based on your general browsing, gaming, uploading, and downloading usage, check out our internet speed guidelines.


Fiber optic internet is quickly becoming the future of communication and technology. Despite its cost and limited availability across the U.S., fiber optic internet offers a lot of benefits that other kinds of internet can't such as its unbeatable download and upload speeds, its limitless data usage, and its coverage for everyone in your family or business.

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