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Fiber-Optic Internet In the United States

25%
25% FIBER COVERAGE

Fiber to the home or FTTH as it is commonly referred to is the gold standard of residential internet connections.

With much of the backbone of the internet deployed using fiber optic cable, it is no surprise that fiber optics are the fastest form of broadband technology.

In fact, the latest deployments by Verizon FiOS and Google Fiber are capable of reaching speeds of 500mbps and 1gbps respectively.

The biggest benefit of fiber is that it can offer much faster speeds over much longer distances than traditional copper-based technologies like DSL and cable. The actual service depends on the company providing the service, but in most cases fiber is the best bang for the buck broadband and future-proof for as long as we can tell. Even if typical broadband speeds become 1000 times faster in 20 years, a single existing fiber-optic connection can still support it.

For more details about the number of fiber optic providers and what communities they serve, we've compiled a full list of a every provider offering fiber optic internet service in the United States.

Should You Get Fiber Optic Internet?

If you have a fiber provider in your area and you are interested in near instantaneous connection speeds then fiber optic is your best bet. We definitely recommend this technology.

Benefits of Fiber Optic Broadband

Transfer lots of data quickly.

Because fiber broadband is the fastest internet available, you can transfer large amounts of data quickly and seamlessly. This means that whether you are watching a movie on Netflix or video chatting with family in Asia or Europe your connection will be seamless and quick (provided they are on fiber too).

Next Generation Technology

Because fiber-optics uses light instead of electricity to transmit data, the frequencies that are used are much higher and the data capacity is much greater. The fiber-optic cable itself is made from glass or plastic which is not susceptible to electromagnetic interference like metal cables. This allows data to flow over great distances without degrading. Interference and energy loss is the limiting factor for all types of communication transmissions and fiber optics handles these factors much better than other modes of transmission. In the future, more and more of our world will be connected via fiber optics as we outgrow the old copper based infrastructures.

Limitations of Fiber

New Infrastructure Requirements

The biggest limitation hindering widespread fiber optic adoption is the cost requirements of implementing new fiber optic lines when old infrastructures such as DSL and cable are still serving customers.

Installing a new fiber optic network is a large capital expenditure for service providers. However, as the cost to maintain aging copper networks increases over time, more and more will choose to upgrade to fiber if not purely for financial reasons. Of course as consumer demand for better and faster broadband increases, service providers will have to install fiber-optic networks to meet that demand. Our mission is to bring that power to the consumer.

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What is fiber broadband?

Fiber broadband is the fastest method of delivering high-speed Internet to residences and businesses.

Similar to DSL, cable, and fixed wireless, fiber broadband connections bridge the “last mile” between the mainstream Internet “backbone” and customer residences.

Fiber broadband connections bridge the last mile between the mainstream Internet and customer residences

While DSL and cable utilize existing phone and TV infrastructure to transmit data as frequency “vibrations” over copper wires, fiber networks transmit data using light over specialized cables packed with glass fibers. [1]

frequencies over airwaves vs frequencies over copper vs light over fiber-optic cable

Light moves very fast (186,000 miles per second, to be specific), enabling speeds up to 1,000 Megabits (one Gigabit) per second on fiber-optic networks — almost 100 times faster than the US broadband average of 11.7 Megabit per second. [2]

Consumers think of fiber as a new technology, but the Internet “backbone” network connecting cities and countries has been built with fiber-optic cables since the dawn of the Internet. The first submarine fiber-optic cable connected the US to France and Britain back in 1988, and hundreds currently criss-cross the ocean floor all around the world. [3]

fiber submarine map

The only thing that’s “new” about fiber broadband is the use of fiber-optic cables to connect the “last mile” directly to consumer residencies, which has been slow to expand due to the high cost of installing new cable networks.

How fiber optic cables work

The Digital data is packaged in zeros and ones, also called “binary.” Everything you see when you surf the Web is the product of streams of binary information — like the dots and dashes of morse code.

Transmitting that stream of binary data via light pulses is straightforward: a pulse means 1, no pulse represents 0.

Binary pulse

Fiber-optic cables are designed to transmit those pulses quickly over long distances.

The inside of a fiber-optic cable is packed with optical fibers made of glass, each about as thick as a human hair. Light particles that enter one end of an individual fiber exit at the other side.

A transmitter at one end of the fiber transmits light pulses as ultra-fast LED or laser pulses. A single flash can travel as far as 60 miles before it begins to degrade. [4]

This is possible because of a light phenomena called “total internal reflection.” Below a critical angle, light particles “bounce” within the fiber, like a marble dropped down a long pipe. Each fiber is wrapped in a layer of glass or plastic “cladding” that has a lower optical density than the core fiber, causing total internal reflection to occur where they meet.

Fiber total internal reflection

When light pulses reach the end of the fiber a receiver translates them back into binary data.

Anatomy of a fiber-optic cable

Individual optical fibers are surrounded by several layers of material that strengthen, protect, and help keep light from escaping.

Single Optical Fiber

A typical fiber-optic cable is packed with dozens to hundreds of individual optical fibers, allowing a high volume of data to travel over a single connection.

Single-Mode vs Multimode

There are two types of optical fiber: single-mode and multimode.

Single-mode has a smaller core and carries laser diode transmissions over large distances. Multimode transmits LED light through a bigger core, where light “bounces” in multiple paths over shorter distances.

Multimode is significantly cheaper than single-mode, making it common for shorter distances within city networks.

Single-Mode fiber vs Multimode fiber

Cable Construction: Ribbon vs Loose Tube

Complete fiber-optic cables come in two basic varieties: ribbon and loose tube.

Ribbon is cheaper and packs fibers more closely, while loose tube offers more padding and protection against the elements.

There are many different sizes and varieties of cables available in either type, but the concept is always the same: bundles of fibers wrapped in protective material.

Note that these examples are not representative of all cable products — there will be less or more protective layers based on application purpose, and the number of fibers contained in a cable can be anywhere from two to several hundred.

Ribbon
Loose Tube

Fiber-Optic Cables are Color Coded

When all the fibers within a cable are of the same type, the cable’s outer layer will be color-coded accordingly. Additionally, individual bundles of fiber within the cable are color-coded so installers can identify which interior bundles to connect when splicing cables together. [5]

Color coded fiber-optic cables

Simplex vs Duplex

Fiber-optic connections usually go two ways, so cables are sold in two packaging styles: simplex and duplex.

Simplex vs Duplex

Duplex cables include two separate fiber-optic cables connected by the outer coating, with two entry/exits on either end. Data only flows in one direction on either cable, making them a good fit for high-traffic connections like backbone ports, fiber switches and servers.

Dark Fiber

Cables are often installed with additional unused fibers. These “dark fibers” can be lit up in the future if more capacity is needed. This makes fiber-optic networks highly scalable compared to DSL or coaxial cable, allowing a network to easily grow without burying additional cables.

Components of a fiber-optic network

Fiber-optic Network components
  • Fiber-optic cable: Cable that carries data as light pulses from one place to another.
  • Transmitter: Device that translates digital signal into light pulses and sends them through a fiber-optic cable. Some transmitters can send multiple signals simultaneously using different wavelengths (colors) of light, multiplying the capacity of a single optical fiber. This technique is called Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM).
  • Receiver: Device that translates light pulses into digital signal for delivery to a digital device. When WDM is used, the receiver is designed to translate multiple wavelengths from a single optical fiber.
  • Amplifier: Device that amplifies light signals within a fiber-optic network. Amplifiers are used when the cable is too long for a single pulse to reach the other end undiminished — for example, connections between cities, or submarine cables connecting continents. [6]

Note that transmitters/receivers are often contained in the same product — called a transceiver — since data will usually go both ways on a simplex fiber-optic cable.

Connection Types

Companies that sell fiber broadband often describe themselves as "100% fiber networks".

That term is misleading because there are several tiers of fiber broadband service recognized by the FCC, and most of them switch to coaxial or ethernet cable at some point between the ISP office and your modem jack. [7]

Fiber Connection types

Implementation Challenges

High cost

High Cost

The biggest challenge to the growth of fiber broadband in the US is the high cost of installing it.

The FCC recognizes the high cost of laying cable as a “substantial barrier” to broadband infrastructure growth in the US. [8] Cities like Chattanooga with taxpayer-funded municipal broadband cite price tags in the hundreds of millions. [9] Analysts estimate the cost of Google Fiber’s nationwide expansion plan to be $3,000–$8,000 per home. [10]

High competition

High Competition

The increased viability of services like fixed wireless for “last mile” could cut into the market for high-speed cable alternatives.

Companies like Starry Wireless are currently experimenting with urban wireless service that could rival wired broadband speeds.

Lobbyists and politics

Lobbyists and Politics

Fiber is a common choice for cities that want to invest in municipal public broadband infrastructure.

Unfortunately, complex state laws (many created under pressure from telecom lobbyists) often prohibit cities from installing their own fiber, on the grounds that it puts them in competition with private businesses. [11]

Pros and Cons of Fiber broadband

Pros


  • Highly scalable
  • Next-generation 1Gb speeds
  • Resistant to electrical interference like storms that affect DSL, cable & wireless

Cons


  • Expensive to install
  • Speeds dramatically higher than average subscriber needs
  • More fragile than coaxial cable

Largest Fiber Providers

1
Verizon Fios
10.36% Coverage
10.36">%
2
4.11">%
3
AT&T Fiber
3.48% Coverage
3.48">%
4
Frontier FiOS
3.13% Coverage
3.13">%
5
2.56">%
6
Sunesys
1.83% Coverage
1.83">%
7
Level 3 Communications
1.40% Coverage
1.40">%

States with the most Fiber coverage

1
Rhode Island
84.9% Coverage
84.9%
2
New Jersey
64.9% Coverage
64.9%
3
Maryland
60.9% Coverage
60.9%
4
New York
59.1% Coverage
59.1%
5
District of Columbia
57.4% Coverage
57.4%
6
Delaware
55.8% Coverage
55.8%
7
Virginia
48.4% Coverage
48.4%

Fiber Providers: Availability by State

Alabama925,17918.8%52 Fiber Providers
Alaska35,7964.8%12 Fiber Providers
Arizona223,1283.3%40 Fiber Providers
Arkansas496,84316.5%40 Fiber Providers
California6,661,28217.2%69 Fiber Providers
Colorado673,38712.6%61 Fiber Providers
Connecticut39,2171.1%24 Fiber Providers
Delaware525,25055.8%15 Fiber Providers
District of Columbia358,32357.4%28 Fiber Providers
Florida5,384,99727.1%72 Fiber Providers
Georgia2,761,02126.9%97 Fiber Providers
Hawaii645,09245.4%9 Fiber Providers
Idaho381,88522.9%41 Fiber Providers
Illinois704,0805.4%110 Fiber Providers
Indiana1,145,47717.3%72 Fiber Providers
Iowa722,53123.3%164 Fiber Providers
Kansas904,77431.0%79 Fiber Providers
Kentucky816,57318.3%62 Fiber Providers
Louisiana549,37712.0%43 Fiber Providers
Maine58,8834.4%24 Fiber Providers
Maryland3,634,21860.9%39 Fiber Providers
Massachusetts2,636,90939.7%29 Fiber Providers
Michigan704,8317.2%74 Fiber Providers
Minnesota1,015,15518.6%95 Fiber Providers
Mississippi219,2677.3%37 Fiber Providers
Missouri1,170,77319.1%70 Fiber Providers
Montana131,74512.9%29 Fiber Providers
Nebraska325,10917.3%59 Fiber Providers
Nevada386,84313.2%37 Fiber Providers
New Hampshire392,68929.3%20 Fiber Providers
New Jersey5,794,74864.9%41 Fiber Providers
New Mexico166,1217.7%33 Fiber Providers
New York11,557,66159.1%71 Fiber Providers
North Carolina2,256,16422.3%66 Fiber Providers
North Dakota281,23940.6%34 Fiber Providers
Ohio1,345,43411.6%82 Fiber Providers
Oklahoma258,3176.7%55 Fiber Providers
Oregon1,451,06036.3%74 Fiber Providers
Pennsylvania5,398,48941.9%64 Fiber Providers
Puerto Rico26,7860.7%5 Fiber Providers
Rhode Island891,95484.9%20 Fiber Providers
South Carolina945,12819.4%37 Fiber Providers
South Dakota231,05027.4%37 Fiber Providers
Tennessee1,850,01528.0%58 Fiber Providers
Texas5,498,70320.4%127 Fiber Providers
Utah856,18728.7%40 Fiber Providers
Vermont108,07317.1%20 Fiber Providers
Virginia4,056,78148.4%63 Fiber Providers
Washington2,239,16431.6%77 Fiber Providers
West Virginia47,0192.5%19 Fiber Providers
Wisconsin463,1128.0%84 Fiber Providers
Wyoming68,38111.6%21 Fiber Providers

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