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Fiber-optic internet is a relatively new technology, and there are still only a handful of internet service providers (ISPs) that offer fiber service, so we compared the four biggest providers. Keep in mind that the best for you depends on your location — two providers rarely offer fiber in the same place.
Verizon FiOS smartly pairs its fiber speeds with unlimited data usage. You can upload, download, stream, and surf as you please all month long. Other providers with data caps slow down your service when you've used up all your data, rendering your internet virtually useless.
Online forums note if you're hosting servers and consistently hitting 10TB a month, you may get a letter of warning from Verizon encouraging you to consider a business internet plan. However, the vast majority of customers will never reach that kind of data usage.
Award-winning customer service
We found Verizon consistently topping customer service rankings from Consumer Reports, the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), and J.D. Power. It was the J.D. Power customer satisfaction award recipient in the East with full points on every metric. Verizon also topped with 70 out of 100 from ACSI and 69 out of 100 from Consumer Reports. These kinds of ratings are the best indicator of customer care. Because of Verizon's optimistic scores, you can expect reliable performance, reasonable costs, painless communication, and clear billing.
New customers signing up for Verizon are offered several promotional deals that could save a lot of money. If you happen to be switching services while still under contract with another provider, Verizon will help buy out your contract for up to $500.
We appreciate that all of Verizon's packages come without the obligation of an annual contract. If you even need to stop your service, you won't have to worry about early termination fees. Verizon will also waive the $99 installation fee if you order online.
Each plan is price-locked for one to three years and comes with varying amounts of Visa gift cards (between $50 and $150). Some bundles also come with a $200 credit for smart home devices by Google or Nest. To top it all off, Verizon offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you find the service faulty.
Points to consider
Only one TV/Internet bundle
Most ISPs offer the most savings when you bundle your internet, TV, and phone service together. But as of 2018, more than half of U.S. homes are wireless-only -- most people aren't looking to bundle a landline into their internet service.
That said, phone service comes standard with Verizon's best bundle packages. If you'd like to combine just internet and TV service, there's just one option, the Verizon Custom TV plan. It's $80 for 1,000 GB and comes with around 155 channels.
The Custom TV plan should allow the flexibility for most people to get their favorite programs. But if you'd prefer one of its more comprehensive channel plans, you'll have to add phone service too.
With fiber presence in 21 states (70 of the nation's largest metro areas) and 9,799 zip codes, AT&T currently boasts the largest fiber network. You'll find most of its fiber service in the South, Midwest, and California. AT&T also has more exhaustive plans to expand its services to 14 more metro areas in these regions, whereas Verizon's expansion plans are focused solely on New York state.
Flexible bundling options
AT&T allows you to build and customize your own bundle of TV and internet services. Customers will have an unlimited combination of channel packages and speed ranges. If you want all the speed has to offer, but don't need many channels, you can pair the 1,000Mbps internet with a 180+ channel plan. But if you spend more time flipping channels than surfing the web, you can choose the 360+ channel plan and bundle it with the 100Mbps internet speed.
On average, bundling will save you $10 on each service. Bundling your service with a TV or phone grants you unlimited data (normally $30) and a $150 rewards card.
Like Verizon, AT&T is often recognized for its outstanding customer service. J.D. Power awarded its customer satisfaction in the North Central region, and it scored 68 out of 100 from the ACSI. We're confident AT&T can quickly resolve issues, communicate accurate billing, provide reliable service, and offer responsive technical support.
Points to consider
AT&T's fiber prices are about $10 more than the competition on every speed tier. Its 1,000Mbps and 235+ channel bundle costs about $135 per month. Verizon, by comparison, is $95 per month for 1,000 Mbps, 280+ channels, and home phone service. If you aren't interested in bundling, you will have to pay $30 per month for unlimited data. The cost is waived when you bundle services but will be added to the bill once your promotional offer expires (typically one year).
1TB data cap
As we mentioned before, AT&T enforces a 1TB data cap. If you choose a 100Mbps or 500Mbps internet-only plan, you'll have to closely monitor your data usage. It should be enough data for most households, but if multiple people are streaming or gaming daily you could go over that limit. You'll receive a warning if you exceed that amount, and you will be charged $10 for an extra 50 GB if it happens too frequently.
You do have the option of upgrading to unlimited data (for $30 per month), but Verizon FiOS offers unlimited data for free. AT&T customers who purchase the top speed tier (1,000Mbps) or bundle their services, will have free unlimited data during the duration of the initial contract.
Frontier offers the best fiber-optic availability for the West Coast, especially for the Pacific Northwest. You'll find its fiber service available across several cities in Washington, Oregon, and California. While CenturyLink also has a presence in some of these states, it's much smaller (one or two cities max).
Meanwhile, fiber service from AT&T and Verizon is nonexistent in the Pacific Northwest, and there are no current plans to expand. For West Coast residents, Frontier is likely your only choice for fiber internet.
No contracts, no data limits
Frontier's service comes without any contract obligation and no data limits. That means customers are free to shop around and switch services without an early termination fee. You also won't find any penalty for using data to binge-watch your summer away, video conference on your work-from-home days, or upload to your YouTube channel.
New customers will also receive a two-year price guarantee, free router, and one year of Amazon Prime.
Points to consider
Frontier ranked below average in our round-up of customer satisfaction surveys. The company scored 54 out of 100 from the ASCI and moderate remarks from Consumer Reports readers. In every region that Frontier operates, it scored 2 out of 5 power circles from J.D. Power (the lowest score it will publish).
Customer service will vary from person to person but be prepared for the potential of some frustrating phone calls, billing confusion, or spotty service. If you value attentive customer service over speed, consider another provider in your area.
CenturyLink's starting price is $65 per month for 100Mbps of internet. That may be a little high in comparison to other providers, but that price will never rise. Typically, internet prices hike by $10 to $20 dollars after the first year, and they continue to rise as you keep the service. With CenturyLink, your monthly rate is locked for as long as you live at that address and stick with the same plan.
CenturyLink offers great terms if you're looking to purchase fiber internet for your business. In cases where you experience an internet outage, CenturyLink will credit you one full day of service for every 30 minutes the service is down. This is double the generosity of most other business internet providers.
In our full review of business internet plan, we found CenturyLink to be transparent with its service and flexible contract. CenturyLink was the only provider to offer its service-level agreement on its website, without the obligation of a sales call. You'll also have a range of contract options, whether you need a month-to-month plan or can commit to its two-year contract.
Points to consider
CenturyLink offers fiber to the smallest population amongst our top picks. With only 3 million across 13 states, it's availability is meager. Though you may find CenturyLink Fiber in a couple more states than Verizon or Frontier, that state presence is small. CenturyLink may only offer fiber in one city for some of the states it claims.
XFINITY offers internet speeds that match fiber-optic technology, but Comcast is still using traditional coaxial cable to deliver it. So, while you may benefit from 1,000 or 2,000 Mbps, you aren't getting to full benefits of fiber technology (think clarity, reliability, and longevity).
Note that these cable speeds also require special routers and cable modems that use a wireless protocol called DOCSIS 3.1. In other words, you'll have to pay extra for this specialized equipment.
Because Comcast has already built cable infrastructure nationwide, these fiber-familiar speeds have impressive availability. You may have access to fiber-like speeds in areas where fiber technology doesn't exist yet. It's worth exploring if you need that kind of speed, but we suggest seeking a true fiber provider first.
Currently, fiber-optic technology covers only 25% of the U.S. That's because fiber infrastructure must be physically built out in every neighborhood -- a costly investment. For some components of the service, like fiber TV, a provider also has to acquire franchise agreements in every town it wants to offer service. All of the nation's largest provider claim to be working on expanding their fiber services, and fiber will eventually encompass the majority of global internet.
For now, we looked at the biggest names in the game: AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, and Verizon. Each provider hosts fiber service in at least five states, for at least four million people.
Fiber has pretty standard speed options, and that makes comparing prices easy. Depending on your location, you'll choose from the following speeds: 50Mbps, 100Mbps, 300Mbps, 500Mbps, and 1,000Mbps. The cost for a 100 Mbps plan, for example, could fall anywhere between $40 to $64 per month. Check out our guide below if you aren't sure what speed your household needs.
When considering the value of provider's packages, we not only compared the price for each speed tier, but also considered fees and installation rates, promotional offerings, and looked at bundling opportunities. After all, a provider with a low monthly rate on a high speed isn't a great value if it also charges $100 for installation, hikes your price after a year, and caps your data usage.
Uploading, downloading, streaming, gaming, and browsing all use data. With speeds as fast as fiber, you'll want the data capacity to support it.
For example, streaming in HD uses about 3GB of data per hour. If you wanted to spend a week binge-watching "Friends," that would eat up about 363GB of data. Some internet providers will put a cap on the data usage, usually about 1TB. But we recommend looking for a provider that offers unlimited data. What's the point in having wicked-fast internet if your data limit can't support your speedy habits?
The common narrative around any kind of TV/internet provider's customer service is one of woeful frustration. From being patched through a forest of phone trees to surprise jumps on your bill, the industry as a whole has room for improvement.
To gauge our potential experience with each provider, we looked to J.D. Power, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and Consumer Reports. These three third-party organizations survey consumers on metrics like billing, communication, reliability, technical support, and cost of service. We favored high-scoring providers for their proven ability to outperform the others in satisfying customers.
How to Find the Best Plan for You
Check your local options
There's a 75% chance you live in a region without fiber-optic internet coverage. When looking to purchase internet, your very first step should be seeking your local providers. You can use our zip tool above to see which of our favorite providers have service in your zip code or search Google for internet providers in your area.
Confirm how much speed you'll need
Fiber internet will come in tiers of speed ranging from 50 to 1,000Mbps. Fiber's max speeds are much faster than the majority of households will need. With 1,000Mbps, you could download a two-hour movie in less than 10 seconds (a task that could take up to 10 minutes on a 20Mbps connection). However, if you're a mega-gamer or host more than 10 people on your Wi-Fi, 1,000Mbps is likely your best bet.
After speaking to network experts, consulting with online speed guides, and using the FCC's data on speed -- we've built a guide to help you find your minimum speed.
Very high use
5 - 10Mbps
Light use: emails, web browsing, social media, SD video streaming
Moderate use: music streaming, occasional online gaming, streaming HD video on one or two devices.
High use: Multiple devices streaming HD video simultaneously, real-time gaming, video conferencing.
Very high use: Multiple devices streaming HD or 4K video simultaneously, large file downloading, real-time gaming, video conferencing.
Max fiber speeds exceed the chart because the vast majority of users will never need a full 1,000Mbps of internet speed. The median household internet speed is 39Mbps, but as streaming popularizes and more advanced media emerges (4K, Ultra HD), the need for more speed is rising. Keep in mind that devices can add up quickly too. There's more than just your computer connecting to the Wi-Fi; phones, tablets, TVs, video game consoles, and even smart thermostats can count.
Don't forget about data
If your internet activity is demanding enough to warrant fiber-optic speeds, there's a good chance you're using a lot of data too. You'll want to enjoy your fiber speeds without throttling your binging habits, so make sure your provider's plans are offering adequate data. We recommend an unlimited data plan if you prefer streaming in 4K or Ultra HD.
If you're comparing providers that cap data usage, look for 500GB or 1TB. Otherwise, your provider might slow down your connection or hit you with extra fees if you hit the limit. 500GB will work for a more casual streaming habit, but heavy gamers and marathon binge-watchers will need 1TB. If you have several people streaming daily, work from home, or intensely game, you'll need an unlimited data plan.
Can you save by bundling?
When choosing the same provider for other telecom services like TV and phone, you'll always save money on each service bundled. Fiber TV isn't as common as fiber internet, but it offers the same high quality and reliability. Bundles typically come with extra promotional channels or free equipment too.
If your home will be hosting a few of these services anyways, we recommend acquiring them through the same provider to save some money and consolidate a bill. If your choice of TV provider will influence who you want to purchase your internet from, you can check out this review of the best TV providers.
What is fiber optic internet?
Fiber optic internet is the newest development in data transferring around the globe, and the gold standard of residential internet connections. Fiber optic internet is faster than traditional methods like cable, DSL/dial-up, etc. Fiber optic internet is a service that transfers data via fiber optic cables – thin glass wires wrapped in protective cable. The small glass wires send data via light signals and can carry large amounts of data in a single line fairly easily.
What is the best fiber internet provider?
The best fiber internet is Verizon FiOS, because of its unlimited data, high customer satisfaction, and reliable speeds.
What are some benefits of fiber optic internet?
Transfers large amounts of data quickly (bandwidth)
Speedy upload/download speed
Next-generation technology (will support future technologies)
Reliability (stronger, tougher to damage, not susceptible to weather, lasts 40-50 years)
Distance (can connect from remote locations and transmit for almost 25 miles)
Cost (will ultimately be more cost effective as the technology becomes more available)