Should I use FiOS or Cable Internet access for my business?

 

In this post today, the third in our series of Telecom Tip Tuesdays, we are going to compare the two most affordable forms of broadband – FiOS and Cable.  You may not have heard this, but last week the FCC changed the definition of “Broadband”.  Now for a service to be classified as broadband, it must support download speeds of at least 25MB, up from 4MB under the old definition.  That makes this Telecom Tip particularly timely.

Opticom services business accounts, not residential, so the focus of this post will be the Internet access portion rather than the television portion of the competing services.  That being said, our research did turn up some good information on each provider’s TV services, so we’ll make a point about it in the conclusion of this post.  Also, if you’re curious about all of the options that are available at your location(s), not just Cable and FiOS, don’t hesitate to drop us a line about our Telecom Management Service.

First, some definitions.  Verizon FiOS is the nation’s largest fiber provider, operating in 13 states and covering about 40 million people.  The FiOS product is different from Verizon’s other Internet products, like T1 and DSL, because it operates over fiber-optic cables.  FiOS also offers other services like TV that compete with cable providers.  As of 2015, FiOS is only available in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia. If your organization doesn’t operate in one of the areas served by FiOS, you probably won’t get a lot out of this post!

When we talk about Cable, we are primarily referring to either Comcast’s Xfinity product or Time Warner Cable’s Internet offerings because these are the cable providers we work with the most. Although other cable providers offer Internet products, we didn’t gather any data on them for this article.  Many of the conclusions here are relevant to other cable providers, however, because they use the same technology.

To compare FiOS and Cable, I will use four categories because that’s the sort of person I am.  They are: Reliability, Customer Service, Availability, and Speed.

Reliability

Cable Internet is generally considered a reliable service, but if you live in an area that frequently experiences cable interruptions and outages, you can expect your internet service to suffer as well.  Our clients’ experience does vary depending on the area, although areas with really bad issues are pretty rare (like New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy).  Cable service is based on copper wiring which has been in the ground for decades, so some areas are in need of maintenance.  Cable also requires power within the network to run repeaters and nodes, adding to the points of failure in the system.

FiOS is a fiber-optic service and it is considered a passive system, meaning that it does not require power to be applied within the system network.  It is less susceptible to storm and lightning damage since fiber cabling is made from glass rather than copper.  In addition, it does not conduct electricity so it is not affected by nearby power lines or high-frequency electrical equipment.

Winner: FiOS

Customer Service

For starters, let’s just say that Internet Service Providers as a group are not going to win any awards for customer service, generally falling among the worst in “Customer Satisfaction.”  However, Verizon scores the best in the industry according to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index.  We’ve been working with providers since 2003 and Opticom’s experience here is more equivocal.  Our usual answer regarding telecom companies’ customer service is that “they all stink.”  We should note, however, that Comcast is notorious among all Internet providers and we have written about them before on this blog.  Even an article that was otherwise down on FiOS (for their TV service) commended Verizon for their customer service.

Winner: FiOS

 Availability

As we indicated earlier, the cable providers, both Comcast and Time Warner Cable, have been building their cable television networks for decades and their Internet service simply rides the same cabling.  As a result Cable Internet is available just about anywhere, including more suburban and rural areas.  FiOS, on the other hand, is only available in the 13 states listed above, and only in specific markets (there’s a pretty useful map we found on this article). In addition, Verizon has had FiOS expansion plans on hold for years, although there have been a few rumors that they may start expanding service areas again.  The point here is that your business is a great deal more likely to be served by Comcast or Time Warner Cable than it is to have access to FiOS.

Winner: Cable

Speed

Given that fiber-optic cabling is generally capable of much higher speeds, it should come as no surprise that top speeds on FiOS outstrip those on Cable.  The 500Mb/500MB top speed on FiOS is only exceeded by some small fiber providers like Google Fiber, and cable speeds don’t really come close.

Winner: FiOS

Conclusion

Our recommendation is that if your location has access to FiOS service, it is a very clear choice for your Internet access.  It offers speed and reliability advantages over Cable at a cost that is affordable by most small businesses, and very similar to Cable.  And if something does go wrong, their support team is responsive and helpful – although this applies only to FiOS.  We should note that Comcast is offering a fiber-optic service to Enterprise customers that will have the clear advantages of fiber that we describe above, but that service tends to be  a lot more expensive than their standard offering.

Also, we did say earlier that there is one caveat that applies mainly to residential customers.  If you watch a lot of television, the Cable television offerings were rated higher by consumers than FiOS TV.  The chief complaint about FiOS that we saw in our research was that the TV service would sometimes pixelate (where the picture turns blocky like a cubist painting) and some programs would cut out entirely.

Deciding on access from FiOS or Cable only scratches the surface of the options that are available for your business connectivity.  If your organization is larger than 25 employees, or if you have multiple locations, there are many more options – and deciding among them requires experience and expertise.  If you would like some help, please drop us a line about our Telecom Management Services.

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