Fiber optic Internet is often the most sought after form of Internet for both home and business users, providing significantly better performance than DSL, cable, satellite and other options. Fiber optic Internet even provides speeds of up to 1 Gbps, as well as a more reliable and stable connection than traditional DSL or cable Internet.
Unfortunately, despite its benefits, fiber optic availability can vary widely from one US city to another. For obvious reasons, businesses are often a top priority for ISPs, but home users are often left out in the cold. For example, according to BroadbandNow, only 21% of Chicago residents had access to fiber by 2021. In contrast, 61% of Dallas residents had access.
If you are one of those residential customers who want to get fiber access but haven’t been able to, there could be several possible reasons.
supply chain shortfalls
Thanks to the global pandemic, the tech industry is facing a shortage of semiconductors, as are almost all other components involved in the tech industry. The problem started when factories in China had to shut down or cut production due to the lockdown. As the pandemic continued, new lockdowns in various parts of the world continued to devastate supply chains, as did problems with the shipping industry.
Supply chain issues were significant enough to prevent AT&T from meeting its fiber rollout targets by 2021. The company originally planned to roll out fiber to 3,000,000 homes by 2021, but this was revised to 2.5 million due to a lack of available fiber (via Ars Technica).
Of all the possible reasons you might not be getting fiber, this is the best one, as it is a short-term problem that is likely to be resolved in the future.
Cost Factors ‘Last Mile’
“Last Mile” is a term often used to denote the last step involved in delivering a product or service. In the context of home Internet, the last mile would be to bring fiber to a neighborhood and individual homes.
Unfortunately, the last mile is often one of the most expensive and difficult stages (via Norskan). A neighborhood may be on the other side of a major highway from major fiber optic lines, it may be on the other side of a mountain, or it may be some other geographical barrier.
Another possibility is that a neighborhood is too small or does not meet the demographic requirements for a company to invest in fiber. For example, a local competing Internet service company may quickly provide cable Internet at nearly comparable speeds at a lower cost. As a result, fiber optic Internet access may not be worth the investment.
new vs old infrastructure
One of the advantages of fiber is the low maintenance cost compared to the traditional copper wiring that DSL and cables rely on (via Field Nation). However, if a company has recently installed copper wiring, it may not be worth immediately turning over and installing fiber.
In such a scenario, the company will wait until it starts experiencing maintenance issues with its existing wiring before investing in installing new fiber. This is one of the main reasons why new neighborhoods often have fiber, while older neighborhoods still run on copper cable or DSL Internet.
Not having access to fiber can be a frustrating problem, especially since more people are working from home than ever before. Fortunately, there are other options a person should consider, especially if they are bothered by the slower option.
T-Mobile and Verizon both offer a 5G home Internet service that can deliver speeds comparable to traditional broadband options. In either case, the wireless provider will give you a modem/router combination with the SIM card. Instead of connecting it to a wired connection, the device receives a signal from the carrier’s network. In areas where a strong 5G signal is available, this can lead to speeds of hundreds of megabits per second.
Starlink is another option, which uses satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) to provide Internet access. Because Starlink’s satellites are in LEO, the service offers speeds and latency comparable to some traditional broadband. In fact, according to Ookla, Starlink is already challenging traditional broadband speeds in some countries, including the US.