Cable vs. Fiber-Optic: Which High-Speed Internet Service is Right for Your Business?

The Internet connection you choose for your business can have a major impact on employee satisfaction, productivity and your bottom line. Unfortunately, most small business owners don’t have the time to invest in thoroughly investigating all their options. As a result, they often wind up making a hasty, less than ideal choice.

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So you don’t make this mistake, we’ve matched up two of the most popular broadband options available: cable and fiber. Read on to discover the pros and cons of each and determine which one will most effectively pump up productivity in your office.

How Cable and Fiber Internet Work

Cable Internet service is offered through the television cable provider in your area. Cable Internet is almost always offered as a stand-alone option, or at a slightly discounted rate when bundled with a television cable package and phone service. Cable Internet requires a modem and professional installation by a technician, as a cable must be run to your office.

The process of installing fiber-optic cable Internet is usually more intrusive and takes a bit longer than cable. That’s because unlike cable which uses your business’ existing cable line, fiber-optic Internet requires that a fiber optic cable be run to your business. Fiber Internet (FiOS) is carried by a strand of lightweight, thin, optic fiber via modulated light. As thin as a human hair, these strands of optically pure glass can carry digital information over impressively long distances. Just like cable, FiOS is usually installed by a professional. However some providers offer a self-installation option. You should be aware that should you choose to self-install FiOS, you may not be covered by the provider’s service contract.

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Round One: Reliability

Cable Internet connections are considered a reliable Internet service. However, if your business is located in an area that frequently experiences cable outages or interruptions, you can expect your Internet service to also be impacted. If your business must have Internet to operate, it’s a good idea to have a backup Internet access option available.

Fiber-optic networks are generally considered as reliable as cable. FiOS is considered a passive system, which means power does not need to be applied within the system network. So, during power outages, a fiber-optic network is less likely to be interrupted or go down. Also, because the conductor is glass, it does not generate electricity, so fiber is immune to interference that can be caused by nearby power lines or high-voltage electrical equipment. Plus, with fiber-optic, there is less chance of your computer sustaining lightening related damage.

Round Two: Availability

Cable is notoriously accessible. In fact, its availability is one of its greatest advantages over fiber. If your business can receive cable television, it can most likely access cable Internet. While cable is widely available, it still isn’t available in some rural locations. If your office doesn’t have access to cable television, you won’t have access to cable Internet either.

Fiber-optic Internet isn’t offered in as many markets as cable, but its availability is expanding. However, because FiOS requires the installation of new cable, it will take some time before it reaches as many markets as cable has and those located in rural areas may be the last to be serviced.

Round Three: Speed

Cable internet speeds can accommodate the needs of most small businesses. Cable offers download speeds that  generally range from 20 to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) but some cable internet providers are now offering download speeds of up to 107 Mbps. Upload speeds of 1.5 to 5 Mbps are common.

Latency (delays incurred during the processing data) of 100 milliseconds (ms) are typical, but latency can range from 25 to 500 ms. It’s important to realize that with cable Internet you share bandwidth speed with your neighbors, so the more customers using cable at once, the slower the Internet speed is for everyone. This means that download speed can slow significantly during high-traffic times. All in all, cable Internet remains a solid choice for heavy downloading, gaming and streaming video.

Best cable internet providers

ProviderAdvertised download speedsStarting monthly priceLearn More
AT&T Small Business25-50 Mbps$40View Plans
Verizon Fios Business1-15 Mbps$40View Plans
CenturyLink Business10-100 Mbps$40View Plans
Frontier Business7-20 Mbps$20View Plans

Cable has a reputation as being fast, but fiber optic speeds are amazingly fast, and blows other high-speed internet options out of the water. Plus, FiOS allows the user to send data over much greater distances while maintaining speed. Fiber-optic internet offers download speeds ranging from 150 Mbps up to 500 Mbps, and upload speeds from 65 Mbps to 100 Mbps. Additionally, fiber internet speeds can be symmetrical meaning the upload speeds match the download speeds.  For example, if you’re downloading data at 200 Mbps, your uploading data at nearly 200 Mbps as well. The unmatched speed of FiOS allows every member of your team to download, upload, stream and share files simultaneously without compromising performance.

Best fiber internet plans for business

ProductDownload speedsStarting monthly priceLearn more
Verizon75-940 Mbps$84.99View Plans
AT&T25-1000 Mbps$60View Plans
Comcast25-500 Mbps$69.95View Plans
Frontier15-150 Mbps$19.99View Plans

Final Round: Price

The cost of Cable Internet varies depending on your location, and whether or not you choose to bundle televisions, Internet and phone services. Generally, cable Internet is an affordable business solution that ranges from $25.00 to $100.00 per month.

  • Plans starting as low as $49.99 a month
  • 36-month price guarantees

Keep in mind that you’ll usually pay more for faster speeds, and you may be charged an installation fee.

Fiber-optic Internet will probably cost your business more per month, but depending on how your business uses the Internet, the speed could be worth it. Plans for FiOS usually start at about $100.00 per month, but can exceed $300.00 per month depending on where your business is located, the speed you want, and the length of your service contract (most providers will require a two year commitment). You may have to pay an installation fee or activation fee, but some companies offer promotions that waive this fee.

The Takeaway

Every business owner is looking for the fastest, most reliable high-speed Internet option at a budget friendly price.  If available in the area, we recommend small businesses choose Fiber internet vs. cable. When you consider your options, be sure you’re comparing apples-to-apples. In addition to making note of download and upload speeds, ask about possible installation fees and thoroughly read over the service contract.

  • Kenneth Duncan

    This must be old. I can get up to 2 Gbps speed with cable in my area. My community is older so we have no access to fiber. Our only 2 real options are Comcast or At&t and with at&t I can only get 50 Mbps which is rare, the average speed for At&t is actually 30-35 Mbps compared to about 250Mbps on cable for the same price lol. Cable does slow down during peak hours, but lowest I have seen it go down is to about 150Mbps to 180Mbps. Which is still more than 3 times the competition. Right now I can subscribe to any speed up to 450Mbps right over the internet with cable. If I want faster speed(up to 2Gbps), I would need a pro insulation which cost about $500. But at least the option is available. I feel we need to make the internet service provider monopoly illegal so we can promote competition. The current system we have is nothing but crony competition. We should require the city to build out the lines and then make internet service provider rent thenlines based on current market values, no 1000 year contracts and each internet service provider can only rent one line of access. Make it illegal to rent multiple lines under different names also. We should setup at least 5 options in each home. I bet you will see gigabit speeds with no data caps.