Fiber vs. Cable Internet: Which Should You Use?

So long as it’s available in your area, choose fiber optic internet providers over cable. You’ll get more bandwidth, much higher upload speeds, less latency, and no hard data caps. Making it ideal for watching videos, cloud file management, and competitive online gaming.

Only choose cable over fiber for bundling with cable television.

I want to know the best internet connection type. In this guide, I’ve compiled information about 2 of the biggest options; fiber and cable. To help you determine which you should pick.

As you read on, I’ll cover the following:

Keep reading to find your answer.

Should You Get Fiber or Cable Internet?

Always choose fiber over cable internet for these reasons:

  • Lower latency: cable has almost double the median latency as fiber
  • Higher speeds: better for 8K video streaming & file transfers
  • More reliable: not susceptible to electromagnetic interference
  • No throttling: no decreased speeds during peak usage hours
  • No hard data caps: no data overage fees after using “X” TB of data
  • Equal download/upload speeds (for the most part): better for livestreaming, smart home devices, & uploading files

I only recommend cable over fiber if the latter isn’t available. Or you want to bundle cable TV and internet products. To the latter point, I counter by recommending switching to live TV streaming services.

You have access to all popular channels and don’t need to suffer from paying broadcast TV and equipment rental fees.

Fiber vs. Cable Internet

Let’s compare cable and fiber optic internet:

Best For8K streaming, competitive online gaming, & file transfersBundling with cable TV, online gaming, & watching videos
Max. Speed10 Gbps1.2 Gbps
Avg. Latency8.1 ms15 ms
Avg. Monthly Fee$64/mo.$51/mo.
Equipment NeededONT & routerCable modem & router
InstallationRequires professional installationSelf-installation possible
Fiber and cable internet compared.

I got most of these numbers from comparing the average latency among fiber and cable internet providers. Your ping will vary by provider. Most of the time, they’ll provide these numbers on their website.

Fiber vs. Cable: Latency

Fiber optic connections will provide less latency due to light-speed signal transmissions. Making it a better option for stable video calls and competitive online gaming.

I’ll talk about online gaming more in a bit.

Cable internet and fiber are neck and neck with average latency. However, you’ll need to consider your location and provider with cable internet.

Xfinity, for instance, tested ping up to 20 milliseconds during peak hours when testing through their fiber service [1]. While that’s irrelevant to my point, it gives us a benchmark.

Fiber vs. Cable: Speed

Cable and fiber both offer 1.0 Gbps internet speeds and over. These speeds are ideal for performing most online tasks without issues.

I’ll discuss file uploads/downloads under the “Business” section. For now, I want to cover speeds more than 1.2 Gbps.

Homes will need these speeds if they frequently upload and download files. For instance, these speeds would prove ideal for those who manage home media servers. Since you’ll constantly need to back up your stuff.

Cable internet packages offer 35 Mbps upload speeds max. Upload speeds are important for managing home security cameras, livestreaming, and uploading files.

Sure, 35 Mbps could support more than 4 cameras and a YouTube livestreamer. But you’ll need more upload speeds if you frequently upload files to cloud storage or video hosting sites.

Fiber optic internet usually offers symmetric speeds. That means equal download and upload. And using the internet during peak hours won’t result in a throttled internet connection.

Fiber vs. Cable: Availability

Here’s an availability comparison between cable and fiber internet [2]:

  • Cable: 80%
  • Fiber: 38%

Most customers have access to fiber optic connections if they live in metropolitan areas. However, as more companies install fiber infrastructure, more access to this connection type may become available.

For now, cable dominates fiber regarding availability.

Fiber vs. Cable: Costs, Equipment, & Installation

Fiber often comes with $99 installation fees since it requires a professional to install optical network terminals (ONT). I’ll cover what these devices are later.

However, many fiber providers offer a free router and won’t charge a monthly fee to use their ONT.

Cable providers will send you a self-installation kit with your modem/gateway and necessary wires. Some providers will squeeze every penny possible out of you by charging self-installation fees.

And if they don’t get you there, they’ll lock features behind their rental equipment. Xfinity’s notorious for this with their xFi Complete. It bypasses the data cap problem THEY CREATED and gives higher upload speeds.

All cable providers I’ve researched allow you to buy third-party modems or network gateways. To waive the fee of renting theirs. I recommend getting a third-party modem/gateway and router. It’ll shave a fee off your bill.

Whether you’ll need a contract will vary by provider. Many fiber providers I’ve researched don’t force contracts. And promote price locks, which means their prices won’t increase for “X” years.

I digress:

Let’s cover reliability.

Fiber vs. Cable: Reliability

Fiber internet isn’t susceptible to electromagnetic interference or radio frequency interference. Because of the glass inside their cables. That means less environmental situations will cause your internet to shut down.

Fiber vs. Cable: For Gaming

For a lag-free gaming experience, you’ll want 40–60 ms of ping [3]. Both connection types, on average, meet this benchmark.

But cable internet suffers from a couple of weaknesses. Throttling and data caps. Data caps won’t affect your gaming experience, but if you frequently download from a Steam library, you’ll burn through your data cap fast.

And once you use up your allotted data, you’ll need to pay data overage surcharges.

Throttling doesn’t only lead to slower internet speeds, but also higher latency. Making cable internet less than ideal if you wanted to game after work when everyone else is online.

Fiber doesn’t have data caps. Or throttling. Which makes it more viable for hyper competitive PVPers and those who continually download game files.


Maybe you’re like me, and like running a video on a separate monitor when grinding in a game like World of Warcraft. Good luck with that during peak usage hours with cable internet. Since you’ll have slower speeds, your videos may encounter buffering.

Depending on how much bandwidth you have available.

Fiber vs. Cable: For Business

Small and large businesses and freelancers should always consider fiber optic internet over cable for a couple of reasons. Hard data caps and higher upload speeds.

Say you’re a freelance video editor and need to upload an hour-long 4K UHD video to YouTube. Compare Cox Gigablast’s 35 Mbps upload speed to Verizon Fios’ 800 Mbps.

It would take you 2.8 hours to upload a video with Cox. 7.5 minutes with Verizon. Imagine having a time crunch and needing to upload a video quickly.

Then there are data caps. Constant file transfers will use all your data quickly. Resulting in data overage charges.

Fiber vs. Cable: For Video Streaming

Fiber is a better option for online video streaming due to having no data caps. Though, both connection types offer more than enough speeds to support more than 10 devices simultaneously streaming 4K UHD video.

Before proceeding, refer to this chart for reference:

TaskDownload Speed
Netflix3.0 Mbps: 720p
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
25 Mbps: 4K
Disney+5.0 Mbps: 1080p
25 Mbps: 4K
Hulu3.0 Mbps: Hulu’s Streaming Library
8.0 Mbps: livestreaming television
16 Mbps: 4K
Peacock TV3.0 Mbps: 1080p
Spotify2.0 Mbps
YouTube2.5 Mbps: 720p
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
20 Mbps: 4K

Here’s an example.

Say your family loves streaming 4K videos. With Xfinity’s 1.2 terabytes (TB) data cap, your home could watch 204 hours of content before facing data overage surcharges [4].

No fiber providers enforce bandwidth caps. Meaning, your home could watch 4K videos to your hearts’ contents.

What Is Fiber Internet?

Fiber internet delivers internet at the speed of light using glass fiber optic cables. Upon reaching your home, optical signals will convert to digital ones through your home’s optical network terminal (ONT).

Think of an ONT as a fiber optic modem. Because this device isn’t a typical DSL or cable modem, you’ll need a technician to install it. Which usually costs $100.

For the most part, fiber providers will let you use a third-party router. So long as it supports the maximum speeds your package offers. For instance, if you have a 6.0 Gbps package, you must use a router that supports at least 6.0 Gbps top download speeds.

Let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using fiber internet.

Pros & Cons of Fiber Internet

Areas where fiber internet wins include:

  • Low latency
  • High speeds
  • More reliable

Fiber didn’t do well in these areas, though:

  • Availability
  • Requires adding infrastructure

Because of existing coaxial infrastructure, you’ll have more access to cable internet without needing to lay fiber cables.

Most Popular Fiber Internet Providers

Popular fiber internet providers include:

Provider* Starting PriceMax. Speed# of States ServicedBest For
Verizon Fios$49.99–$89.99/mo.300–940 Mbps9 (Availability map)Remote work & discounts
AT&T Fiber$55–$180/mo.300–5,000 Mbps21 (Availability map)Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Frontier Fiber$39.99–$149.99/mo.500–2,000 Mbps25 (Availability map)Online gaming & home server management
Ziply Fiber$20–$300/mo.50–5,000 Mbps4Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Optimum Fiber$40–$180/mo.300–5,000 Mbps17Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
CenturyLink$30–$70/mo.200–940 Mbps16 (Availability map)Remote work
Xfinity Gigabit Pro$300/mo.6.0 Gbps40 (Availability map)Managing Home servers
Google Fiber$70–$100/mo.1.0–2.0 Gbps9Livestreaming
Windstream$39.99–$69.99/mo.500–1,000 Mbps18Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Fiber internet service providers compared.

* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors.

Verizon Fios is my favorite fiber provider because of its 10-year price lock and bundle(ability) with mobile plans.

Adding it onto an existing mobile plan will shave $25 off your bill. Individuals like first responders, nurses, and military personnel could qualify for additional discounts.

If Fios isn’t available in your area, consider Google Fiber. So long as you utilize Google Drive. Since you’ll get the 1.0 TB of free storage. It’s a fantastic perk for anyone who relies on it for cloud file storage and backups.

Speaking of backups.

Do you manage a home server? If so, you’ll want speeds higher than 1.0 Gbps when constantly backing up your storage. Xfinity Gigabit Pro offers the most storage for residential customers, but costs an arm and a leg.

Everyone else who doesn’t need or isn’t living in a supported area for the above plans should consider the other options. Though they don’t have as many perks, you’ll get symmetric speeds, free routers (for the most part), and no data caps.

What Is Cable Internet?

Internet service providers use coaxial cables to deliver internet to customers’ homes. Yes, cable internet and television use the same coaxial networks.

Meaning, companies have more ways to siphon money from your wallet. I mean, customers could bundle their products for potentially lower prices.

It is an excellent value if you don’t want to transition to live streaming TV services like YouTube TV.

I digress:

Many cable internet providers *looks at Xfinity* enforce hard data caps. This means once you use “X” TB or GB of data, you’ll see data overage surcharges on your bill. These fees usually cost $10 per additional 50 GB used each billing cycle.

Let’s see whether cable’s a viable option.

Pros & Cons of Cable Internet

Pros for cable internet include:

  • Bundle(able) with cable television plans
  • Decent download speeds
  • Acceptable average latency

Cable has the following downsides:

  • Lower speeds during peak hours
  • Unequal download & upload speeds

Fiber beats cable in almost every category. For instance, you won’t have to worry about slower internet once everyone in your neighborhood or building gets off work.

Most Popular Cable Internet Providers

Here’s who offers cable internet services:

Provider* Starting PriceMax. Speed# of States ServicedData Cap?Best For
Spectrum$49.99–$89.99/mo.300–1,000 Mbps (DL)
10–35 Mbps (UL)
41 (Availability Map)NoOnline gaming & file downloads
Xfinity Cable$20–$120/mo.75–2,000 Mbps (DL)10–35 Mbps (UL)48 (Availability Map)1.20 TB720p video streaming
Cox$49.99–$79.99/mo.100–1,000 Mbps (DL)5.0–35 Mbps (UL)19 (Availability Map)1.25 TB720p video streaming
WOW!$29.99–$94.99/mo.200–1,200 Mbps (DL)5.0–50 Mbps (UL)91.5–3.0 TB1080p video streaming
Cable internet providers compared.

* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors.

If people in your household constantly download and upload files or stream 4K videos, you’ll want Spectrum. Or Xfinity plus the xFi Gateway Complete rental. Spectrum has no data cap, so you won’t have to limit your home’s downloads and 4K video-watching habits.

But if you want higher upload speeds, yet have access to cable internet, fix this issue with money. You get unlimited data usage, a free device upgrade after 3 years, and higher upload speeds.

The upload speed increase will vary by plan.

If your home needs more data, but wants to avoid Spectrum Communications, WOW!’s 3.0 terabyte (TB) data cap gives you double the data cap for their 1,000 Mbps plan. Or provides a 2.5 TB data cap on their 500 and 600 Mbps packages.

But it’s not available in many areas.

Throttling. One of the most significant downsides of cable internet. And something most companies decline they do. Thus, it’s difficult to make recommendations around this area.

As most complaints about throttling came from forums and random blogs. Meaning, I don’t want to take their claims as facts.


Spectrum’s one provider I could find who allegedly admits they throttle [5]. But they call it “congestion management.” They may not serve as the best option for those who primarily use the internet during peak usage times.

Because you may have slower internet.

Before jumping the gun on a cable provider, consider other connection types.

Other Internet Connection Types to Consider

Before considering a connection type, weigh in other options like the following:

Internet TypeStrengthsWeaknessesBest For
FiberEqual DL/UL & no throttlingAvailabilityAny online task
CableMore availabilityData caps, throttling, & low UL speedsWatching videos (under 4K) & gaming online
Fixed WirelessMore availability & no data capLow UL speeds & physical obstacles could block your signalAny online task that doesn’t require much upstream bandwidth
DSLNo data cap & reasonable DL speedsSuffers from signal loss when you’re further from ISPWatching 1080p videos
SatelliteMore availabilitySlow, high-latency, & expensiveBackup internet connection
Internet connection options compared.

Here are the connection types to choose in order:

  1. Fiber: best overall option
  2. 5G fixed wireless access: no data cap & high download speeds
  3. Cable: download speeds are ideal for homes with more than 2 people
  4. DSL: download speeds can accommodate homes fewer than 2 people
  5. 4G fixed wireless access: no data caps & download speeds can accommodate most tasks
  6. Satellite: only pick as a last resort

Fiber internet’s the best in every category. Speed, reliability, low-latency, and pricing (for what you get). But it doesn’t have much coverage, yet.

In that case, choose 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) or cable internet. Both offer download speeds all homes could want for any online task. So long as you don’t need high upload speeds.

Only choose connection options 4–6 if your area doesn’t support the previously mentioned options.

FAQs: Fiber & Cable Internet

Read on to find frequently asked questions about fiber optic and cable internet.

What Is The Difference Between Internet and Wi-Fi?

The internet connects you to the service provider. Wi-Fi connects your devices to wireless routers or gateways. Routers and gateways connect to modems, which receive your internet.

Is Fiber Optic Network Wired or Wireless?

Fiber optic networks use wired connections.

Is Fiber Faster Than Cable Internet?

Fiber internet is faster than cable internet regarding speed and latency. Maximum speeds for fiber are 10 Gbps. Whereas, cable offers maximum download speeds of 1.2 Gbps.

Is Fiber or Cable Internet Better?

Fiber internet is better than cable in every category. It offers equal download and upload speeds, doesn’t have data caps, has less latency, and provides more reliability.


Fiber’s better than cable internet in almost every category. Except if you want to bundle it with cable television services. In that scenario, you could replace cable TV with live streaming services like YouTube TV.

If neither connection type is available in your area, compare the other options I mentioned.

Once you find an internet connection type that’ll suit your home, compare all the available providers. We’ve reviewed them throughout various guides.

Was this article helpful?

Leave a Comment