Fiber vs. Cable

As the debate over cable vs. fiber high-speed internet continues, let’s take a look at both to discover which is better — including which has the highest speed, which one offers cheap internet options, and what’s available near you.

Spoiler: fiber is the way forward.

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Be sure to check on availability and pricing before making a switch.

Fiber vs. Cable: The Short Version

We credit cable internet with revolutionizing speeds and consistency for users a decade-and-a-half ago, but these days, the technology is showing its age.

Cable internet can have issues with upload speeds, and that’s important if you work from home and do video calls or love to play multi-player games. Upload speeds impact how others see and hear you on the other end of your video conference or online game. Hello, lags and “can you see my screen now?” delays.

It also can slow down during peak times (think workdays, class times, movie nights, etc.) in well-populated areas.

On the other hand, fiber internet is currently the fastest, most reliable internet service available. It uses fiber-optic cables to send data faster than standard copper cable — as quickly as the speed of light.

  • Data is delivered via a dedicated line, giving you more consistent and higher speeds.
  • Fiber internet offers symmetrical download and upload speeds.
  • Fiber optic internet is less likely to go down during a power outage.
  • Because fiber optic internet is made of glass, there’s no electricity involved. This protects it against interference from nearby power lines or high-voltage electrical equipment.
  • Fiber can withstand more temperature fluctuations than cable and can be submerged in water.

Fiber is ideal for anyone looking to stream their favorite shows and movies, play games with friends online, video conference from home, share their latest photos and videos, and work and school from home.

So, what are you waiting for?

Our best internet plans. Your best service fit.

EarthLink offers a variety of fiber internet plans with speeds up to 1 Gig and plans starting at $49.95. Our fiber internet never has teaser rates and plans are bundle-free. It’s reliable, unlimited internet at the fastest speeds. Find the right connection for you today!

Fiber vs. Cable: The Deep Dive

Want to go deep on the differences between cable and fiber high-speed internet?

We’ve done all the research, so you don’t have to.

How Does Fiber Internet Work?

Wondering about the differences between a cable vs. fiber connection? Let’s start at the beginning. Fiber internet uses fiber-optic cables to transmit data via a dedicated line — making it faster and more reliable than standard copper cable. Fiber lines are made of thin strands of glass that carry light signals (the data you’re sending) over long distances more efficiently than copper cables do.

However, fiber is also newer and still expanding its footprint across the U.S.

While some internet service providers may still offer cable plans, fiber is the gold standard for speed. And who doesn’t need fast, reliable internet these days?

Which Is Faster: Cable or Fiber Internet?

Both fiber and cable offer fast speeds — but fiber is literally as fast as the speed of light. Cable internet is a shared network between multiple households. So, the speed you experience can be up to 25 percent slower during peak-use hours. (Psst: peak-use hours used to be typically after dinner, but as the internet becomes more integrated into our lives, peak-use is starting to be almost all the time.)

Fiber internet runs on a dedicated line, so many people can access it at the same time without affecting your individual speed. A dedicated line, plus the faster initial speed, make fiber internet ideal for high data-consuming activities like video conferencing, gaming, and streaming, even during peak hours. So if you’re comparing fiber speeds vs. cable, fiber wins out in every way.

Which Is More Reliable: Cable or Fiber Internet?

In general, fiber and cable internet are roughly equally reliable. However, because cable internet uses electricity, it’s impacted by factors that fiber is not. If your area experiences a lot of storms, frequent electricity outages, or cable interruptions, your cable internet just cannot be as reliable.

Fiber optic internet can function without electricity because the wires are made of glass and transmit light, protecting it from power voltages and fire risks. Fiber internet can still experience a service outage, but it’s less likely than with cable internet.

What’s the Difference Between Cable and Fiber Internet?

In addition to reliability and speed, there are other differences between fiber internet and cable internet. Let’s lay out some of the pros and cons to showcase them.

Pros and Cons of Fiber Internet

Pros

  • Highest speeds
  • More secure
  • Less susceptible to decay/natural disasters

Cons

  • Can cost more
  • Available in certain areas as it expands
  • Available from certain providers

As if fiber internet needed any more strengths, it also offers added security. Because data is transmitted by light, it’s much faster and the signals are harder to intercept. Trying to tap into fiber internet lines will likely require breaking the glass, so any potential breaches will be quickly discovered.

Pros and Cons of Cable Internet

Pros

  • May be more available in some areas
  • Can be more affordable

Cons

  • Slower, asymmetrical download and upload speeds
  • Typically includes data caps, which can limit use and throttle your internet speed
  • Slow during peak hours
  • May require you to bundle with unnecessary services

Cable internet revolutionized speeds and consistency for users when it came onto the market. Several decades later, it’s time for an upgrade.

Fiber Internet is Cheaper than Cable Internet

Perhaps just as importantly, fiber is a cheaper long-term alternative to cable internet. As copper cable wires deteriorate (thanks to distance and use), they need to be replaced — typically with fiber. With fiber internet, the transmitters and receivers that connect each end may need to be replaced and upgraded from time to time, but no new cable will have to be buried.

As more people and small businesses focus on sustainability, fiber wins there, too. And, because it’s more easily upgraded than its cable counterpart, fiber will save companies (and users) money in the long run.

It’s clear that fiber internet is the future of the internet. With added security, a reliable connection, and incredible speeds, you’ll never want to go back.

Want to know your current internet speed? Start the free test now!

Favorite shows stuck buffering? Video conferences lagging or dropping? Check your internet speeds now and see if it’s time for a switch.

Use our free online internet speed test to track your current home or business internet connection. Try it now to track your current internet connection and see how it compares to EarthLink Fiber internet speeds.