FiOS vs. Cable
At a Glance
FiOS provides much higher upload and download speeds than cable at a similar monthly cost. However, while cable is available even in many smaller towns, you may have difficulty getting FiOS outside major metropolitan areas.
Cable Internet connections are the most popular form of broadband access at the current time, but they’re not the only viable option. The backbone of essentially all modern computer networks is formed using fiber-optic cables, but cable or DSL networks handle most of the local-level infrastructure in copper wire, be it coaxial cable or twisted pair. Services like Verizon’s FiOS, however, run optical fiber all the way to the home, only transitioning to copper at your home’s terminal. Without a doubt, this offers better speeds than pretty much anything else out there – but speed isn’t all that matters; how does FiOS compare to a cable connection as a product?
FiOS is going to have the advantage here by virtue of the technology, but cable connections are very mature, and so the difference isn’t as pronounced as one might think. Many regional cable providers have high-end connections with 50 megabits per second or more of download bandwidth, comparable to some of the FiOS plans on offer. Still, home FiOS plans can have up to 300 Mbps down, giving them a significant edge in this department; upload speeds of up to 65 Mbps also go beyond anything that cable providers are likely to offer. Even the basic 15 up/5 down plan has far more upload speed than many cable providers will give you.
Pictured at top: Medialink Wireless Broadband Router
FiOS connections are very stable, according to the service’s users; downtime is rare, and short when it does come up. Cable connections are somewhat erratic in this respect – you can have anything from rock-solid reliability to something that’s borderline unusable, depending on your ISP and local Internet traffic conditions. Look for reviews, and ask other users how they feel; there’s really not much useful information to be had on the average reliability of a cable connection, because it’s entirely a factor of how on-the-ball your ISP is.
FiOS’s biggest issue is that Verizon is only really operating it in a handful of large urban regions. Most areas simply don’t have FiOS, or any other fiber network; on the other hand, cable ISPs operate in most cities or towns of even modest populations. If you’re way out in the boonies, you might have a harder time, but most people should have access to a cable ISP’s services. The small coverage area is enough to render all of FiOS’s pros moot if you’re not within it; it doesn’t matter how good the service is if they won’t sell it to you.
FiOS offers probably the best speed for your money overall, but if you’re not interested in a high-end plan you may find your cable provider offers a better deal than the $50-per month 15/5 plan. It’s also possible that your area’s cable service could be ludicrously overpriced; this is yet another thing that’s subject to the whims of your ISP. If you do want a high-end plan, though, there’s no competition; a 75/35 plan for $70 a month through FiOS is incredible value for money. Verizon’s FiOS service can provide higher top-end speeds than cable, and they can provide them more cheaply than cable.