Why You Can’t Get Fiber Internet in Your Area

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Fiber internet is often the most sought-after variety of internet for homes and businesses, offering significantly better performance than DSL, cable, satellite and other options. In fact, fiber internet offers speeds of up to 1 Gbps, as well as a more reliable and stable connection than traditional DSL or cable internet.

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Unfortunately, despite its advantages, the availability of fiber 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 behind. For example, according to BroadbandNow, only 21% of Chicago residents had access to fiber through 2021. In contrast, 61% of Dallas residents had access.

If you are one of those residential customers who would like to have access to fiber, but have not been able to do so, there are several possible reasons that may be to blame.

Supply chain shortages

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Thanks to the global pandemic, the tech industry is plagued by a shortage of semiconductors, along with virtually every other component involved in the tech industry. The problem started early on when factories in China had to close or reduce production following shutdowns. As the pandemic continues, new lockdowns in various parts of the world have continued to wreak havoc on the supply chain, as have issues with the shipping industry.

Supply chain issues were significant enough to cause AT&T to miss its 2021 fiber rollout goals. The company originally planned to roll out fiber to 3,000,000 homes in 2021, but adjusted it to 2 .5 million due to a shortage of available fiber (via Ars Technica).

Of all the possible reasons why you might not be able to get fiber, this is the best because it’s a short-term problem that will likely be fixed in the future.

The “last mile” cost factor

Aerial view of the neighborhood

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The “last mile” is a term often used to indicate the final stage in the delivery of a product or service. In the context of home internet, the last mile would involve bringing fiber to a neighborhood and individual homes.

Unfortunately, the last mile is often one of the most expensive and difficult stages (via Norscan). A neighborhood may be across a major highway from major fiber optic lines, it may be across a mountain, or there may be some other geographic barrier.

Alternatively, a neighborhood may be too small or may not meet the demographic requirements for a company to invest in operating fiber. For example, a local competing Internet service company may already provide high-speed wired Internet access with nearly comparable speeds at a low price. Therefore, it may not be worth the investment to run fiber internet.

New or old infrastructure

Close-up of wiring

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One of the advantages of fiber is its low maintenance overhead compared to the traditional copper cabling that DSL and cable rely on (via Field Nation). However, if a company has recently installed copper cabling, it may not be worth immediately turning around and running fiber.

In such a scenario, the company will likely wait until it begins to experience maintenance issues with its existing cabling before investing in the use of new fiber. This is one of the main reasons why newer neighborhoods often have fiber, while older neighborhoods still run on copper cable or DSL internet.

Alternatives to fiber

Starlink Satellite Antenna

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Not having access to fiber can be a frustrating issue to deal with, especially as more people are working from home than ever before. Fortunately, there are other options a person should consider, especially if faced with a slower alternative.

Both T-Mobile and Verizon offer 5G home internet service that can deliver speeds comparable to traditional broadband options. In each case, the mobile operator will provide you with a modem/router combo with a SIM card. Instead of plugging it into a wired connection, the device will receive a signal from the carrier’s network. In areas where a strong 5G signal is available, this could result in speeds of several hundred megabits per second.

Starlink is another option, using Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites to provide internet access. Since 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 United States.

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