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When it comes to innovations, technology gurus and internet providers are on a constant roll. There are so many different types of internet connections, and so many service providers with such a variety of offerings. You can read all the reviews you want, and take opinions from others, but at some point, all the information becomes overwhelming, and you give up on the attempt to make a wise switch. The dilemma deepens when you also have to deal with understanding the pros and cons of the latest in internet tech—Fiber optic! And, all its hybrid shapes.

Most people are plain fascinated by the high speeds made possible by the cutting-edge technology now being employed to deliver 100% Fiber Optic residential internet connections. But, few realize the true benefits of being connected to the internet via a pure fiber optic line.

Today, we’ll take a look at key aspects of fiber optic internet to help you understand how this impressive technology can revolutionize your online experience. At the same time, we’d like you to carefully assess the pros and cons of switching to a fiber optic internet connection so that you can judge its utility in the context of your unique requirements.

What is Fiber Internet?

Fiber optic internet is a game-changer in the world of broadband. With the use of fiber optic cables data transfer has been accelerated to an extent that exceptionally high speeds up to 1,000 Mbps can now be delivered for residential usage at competitive rates. Through a fiber optic network, large amounts of data can be transferred so fast and so seamlessly that fiber internet automatically gets an edge over all other types of connections. In fact the difference in the performance of fiber optic internet relative to cable, satellite or DSL broadband is so vast it would be hard to make a fair comparison.  

How does Fiber Optic Internet work?             

Fiber internet works by transferring data across cables made of optical fibers.

What are optical fibers?

Optical fibers are thinner than human hair. But, despite how thin they are, they have two parts—a core that is made of glass, and cladding that is made of thicker glass or plastic. Data is transmitted by making the core and the cladding work together. Light moves down the fibers without escaping. It is reflected when it hits the glass core in the fiber, like it would when it hits a mirror. But the cladding, which is made of glass or plastic with a different optical density, keeps it caged in the core. Thus, through total internal reflection, data is carried from one point to another via light pulses that can travel up to 60 miles without degradation. To support transportation of data over thousands of miles, these pulses go through optical amplifiers which boost the signal and ensure no data is lost. Once at the destination point, an optical network terminal (ONT), converts light pulses into Ethernet—which connects your devices to the internet.

The conversion of light pulses into Ethernet occurs at the end of the “last mile”—a term that is used to refer to the last stretch of a wired connection between a provider’s network and subscriber’s location. And, it is this “last mile” which gives birth to the various types of fiber internet connections that we are about to discuss next.

Types of Fiber Optic Internet

There are many different types of fiber internet connections depending on the method of data transfer used in the “last mile”. Here are some that are more common.

1. Fiber to the Premises (FTTP), Fiber to the Home (FTTH), Fiber to the Subscriber (FTTS) and Fiber to the Desk (FTTD)— these are examples of a fiber internet connection that reaches the destination point via a fiber optic line all the way through. Such connections are 100% fiber optic or pure fiber.  

2. Fiber to the Building or Business (FTTB) is the type of fiber optic internet connection which reaches a multi-dwelling unit via fiber optic lines, however it is distributed among living or office spaces inside the building via copper lines.

3. Fiber to the Node or Neighborhood (FTTN), Fiber to the Street (FTTS), and Fiber to the Cabinet or Curb (FTTC)—these are also types of fiber optic internet connections which facilitate data transfer over copper lines in the “last mile”. Until the Node or Cabinet in a neighborhood street, which is typically within 1,000 ft. of the user’s location, data transfer occurs over pure fiber optic cables. But from the common distribution point onwards, its copper lines over which data transfer takes place.

In all these scenarios the “last mile” usually utilizes copper lines, but coaxial cable lines which were initially for cable TV connections only, are also employed by service providers. Mainstream availability of DOCSIS 3.0 & 3.1 networking protocols has aided the data hop-over from fiber optic lines to copper or coaxial cables—but this shift does result in a bottleneck of sorts. Yet, because the stretch covered via copper or coaxial lines is usually short enough, significant degradation in the performance of the fiber internet connection gets avoided.

Fiber Optic Internet Service Providers & Availability

According to the federal government's national broadband comparison tool, in December 2017 fiber optic was available to 30% of the U.S. population. Later estimates set it at around 32%.

The main issue with scarce availability of fiber optic internet stems from the fact it is costly for service providers to extend the fiber optic backbone of their networks into close proximity of subscriber location. Most of these providers already have well spread out DSL or coaxial cable networks which are still serving customers. And, because of that even service providers which have ventured into the realm of fiber internet are slow in expanding the reach of their fiber optic lines. The reason why you find fiber optic internet offers from various providers only in select areas.

Here it is worth mentioning, out of 20,000 incorporated cities and towns in the U.S., almost 1700 are currently recognized for their efforts to eliminate the digital divide by investing in future proof connectivity types. Following are the states where fiber optic internet is available to over 50% population.

State

Fiber Optic Internet Coverage

Rhode Island

84.2%

District of Columbia

74.8%

Utah

70.8%

New Jersey

68.3%

New York

63.6%

Maryland

61.8%

Oregon

57.4%

Delaware

56.6%

Hawaii

55.3%

Washington

53.3%

Virginia

51.3%

North Dakota

51.9%

After you have figured out whether or not fiber internet is available in your area, the next step is to pick your service provider. Many localized providers as well as those which carry nationwide repute, are in the business of delivering residential fiber optic internet connections in the U.S. Here are some of the best listed for you to take a look at:

 

  • AT&T—one of the most well known service providers in the U.S. which offers you fiber internet plans with a range of download speeds—100 Mbps, 300 Mbps, 1 Gig. AT&T Fiber comes with unlimited data too. With high speeds and no data caps, priced at $35, $45 and $60 per month, fiber offers from AT&T make for a great online experience. The best part is AT&T Fiber and AT&T TV bundles save you an estimated $120 during the first year—because when you pair the two services AT&T gives you a $10 discount on your IPTV subscription.
  • CenturyLink—a provider that has long served America with its DSL internet now provides pure fiber internet connections in select regions. CenturyLink Gigabit service comes with unlimited data and is affordable at $65 per month. The fact there is no rate hike after 12 months, makes the offer all the more desirable. Plus, you pay on a Month-to-Month basis, no need to sign a contract.
  • Windstream Kinetic—another U.S. based ISP which has been long known for its DSL service especially in rural and suburban America. In select urban centers under its coverage, Windstream now offers pure fiber optic internet as fast as 1 Gbps priced at $67 per month for the first 12 months—one of the most competitively priced Gig services in the market.
  • Optimum by Altice—Like other providers, Optimum too offers pure fiber internet in select parts of the U.S. under its coverage. Priced at $69.99 per month with no data limits, Optimum Gig service is a good bargain.
  • Frontier Communications—well known for serving rural communities across America with its sturdy copper network, Frontier now offers you fiber optic internet as fast as 50 Mbps, 500 Mbps and 1 Gig. Priced at $49.99, $59.99 and $79.99 with no data caps or contracts, Frontier FiberOptic Internet offers give you choice—if you don’t have the utility for higher speeds, you can pick the 50 Mbps tier at a lower rate, and still enjoy the reliability of a fiber broadband connection.

It is not only necessary to ensure a service provider offers fiber optic internet packages at your address, but you must also remember to keep your focus on making a choice that fits both your budget constraints and your unique set of requirements. With so many offers out there, it is easy to get lured into something that is more than what you need, both in terms of speed and price.

The Pros and Cons of Fiber Optic Internet

Relative to other common types of internet available in the U.S. residential market, new-gen fiber internet comes with clear advantage over the rest.

Hands down, when compared to DSL which is still widely available, fiber optic internet brings you more speed, bandwidth and consistency. The same is true when you compare it with cable broadband. Even if you run a comparison with a rather unlikely competitor, i.e. satellite internet, you see how much more value fiber broadband brings to you in terms of performance. The only downside of fiber optic internet is its scarce availability, and the higher cost associated with it.  

Pros & Cons of a Fiber Optic Internet Connection

Pros

Cons

Should I Look for Fiber Optic Near Me?

Now, that you have read through a rather detailed analysis of fiber optic internet—how it works, what it brings you, how much does it cost, where can you find it, which providers offer it, so on and so forth—it is time to determine whether or not it is a good option for you based on your unique set of needs.  

When is fiber internet the best choice?

 

When is fiber internet not a good option?

 

 

The End Note

To conclude, fiber internet has a long list of pluses. But, at the end of the day what matters is utility of what you get, and the value for your money. What may be good for a home-based start up or a large household big on the internet, may not be the right choice for a single individual’s work from home needs or a smaller family with light usage of internet. We’d recommend you give it a good thought and place your available fiber optic internet options in the perspective of your needs and budget before making a decision.

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