It seems as if fiber optic is the word of the day when it comes to internet access. Established providers, like AT&T, have started offering fiber optics for internet, telephone, and even television.
Fiber optics offers faster internet speeds and a clearer signal than cable or DSL, and it has the capacity to carry thousands of signals along a single strand. Yet, despite its increasing popularity, there are still many areas where fiber optics are not available; or, they are available, but not at the speeds you would expect.
Why are so many places so slow in adopting this new and exciting technology?
Lack of Infrastructure
Fiber optics have actually been in heavy use for telephone communications since the mid-1970s, however, not all places are wired for fiber optics. Some areas still use the older copper cables, especially those that have underground cabling, and those cables have yet to be replaced. Because it can be expensive to dig up streets, remove the copper, and replace it with fiber optics, a lot of places are slow in getting that done.
Some areas might not see a transition to fiber optic for a long time, unless the current providers start facing competition. For example, AT&T expanded to fiber in Kansas City after Google did its huge fiber rollout in that area. AT&T is also expanding its business fiber offerings in Tennessee for similar reasons. In both cases, thanks to healthy competition from other providers, expanding fiber access was deemed worth the cost of upgrading existing wiring.
Lack of Access
Much of the existing fiber optic infrastructure is owned and controlled by the phone companies that laid the original wiring. This means that if another fiber provider wants to use the existing wires, they will need to get permission from the existing companies. If those companies are planning to upgrade to fiber internet in the future, they might not be willing to provide access to their wiring. This means that a company like Google, which might be ready to start offering fiber optic in a specific area, won’t be able to set up shop because the local phone company has control of the lines.
If that’s the case then a fiber optic company won’t be able to move in unless the city or town is willing to foot the bill, or at least pay a substantial amount, to build an all new fiber optic infrastructure. Although fiber optic is cheaper in the long run, it is expensive to install and not every place is willing or able to spend the money.
Another issue is that, even if the owners allow access to the wires, they could put caps on the speed and amount of data they allow through their lines.
This is one of the reasons why Google Fiber is only able to move into a few markets at this time.
The Need for Upgrades
Although there are some areas with fiber optics already in place, many of these existing wires are decades old, and are in need of upgrading. While they might be fine for carrying telephone signals, and can support some faster internet speeds, they might not be able to support the speeds and data clarity that today’s fiber optic networks demand.
As a result, you can find areas where fiber optics are available, but not at the speeds that you would expect.
Finding Fiber Optics in Your Area
It can often be hard to tell if fiber optics is actually available in your area. If you live in an urban, or suburban setting, you might see ads for fiber optic providers, and even see fiber optics truck driving around. Unfortunately, this alone will not tell you if you can actually subscribe to a fiber optic service in your home or business. To do that, you will need to contact the provider directly.
Many providers offer information on their availability at a central website, where you can enter your address information and see if they are in your area. If you can’t find a central site, you can also go directly to the provider’s website and either enter your information, or call their customer service line to get more information. For more info on fiber internet, go to http://fiberinternetproviders.com/uverse-availability/.
If fiber optics are not available in your area, you can also contact the individual companies to find out when they plan to expand into your area. Barring that, you can also get put on a mailing list to receive updates as the service expands to more areas.
The good news is that fiber optics is slowly becoming more widely available and, eventually, will be available in your area.