The internet’s come a long way from dial-up modems – most of us have internet access at our fingertips on a daily basis, no matter where we are. But when you’re talking about the connection you use every day, what’s the best option? It all depends what you need. Here’s a look at your two primary options and what might suit your needs.
The Difference Between Fiber and ADSL
ADSL stands for asymmetrical digital subscriber line, and uses traditional copper telephone lines to transmit data from a telephone exchange to your computer. Fiber, on the other hand, uses fiber optic cables to transmit data, meaning transmissions can travel at the speed of light and in higher volumes. In essence, fiber is a lot faster, less prone to bottlenecks, and isn’t affected by distance the way ADSL is.
Speed is the reason most people are likely to choose fiber over ADSL. ADSL speeds usually range from 1 Megabits per second to 40 Mbps, though for most people, 40 is unrealistic because of high volumes of traffic from other users dependant on the same line, or because of the distance between them and the nearest telephone exchange. Distance is a factor here – the further you are from the exchange, the slower your internet will be.
Fiber, however, can handle much higher volumes of traffic, meaning multiple users in your area is far less likely to limit your speed. There’s also no distance factor as data can travel at light speed. Speeds can be as high as 200 Mbps, though most internet service providers will offer speeds from 10 to 100 Mbps, so any limit will be self imposed.
Because the telephone has been around since the late 1800s, most areas will have existing telephone lines, making ADSL readily available almost anywhere. Fiber has the drawback of not being nearly as widely available. However, it’s worth talking to your ISP about fiber in your area – if they recognize a demand, you’ll probably get fiber sooner than if you, and everyone else, go with what’s available.
For light users who only go online a couple times a week for email, Facebook and the odd Google search, capped ADSL will be a much cheaper option. A capped line isn’t advisable for heavier daily use – you’ll either lose your connection partway through the month or pay hefty out of bundle rates. If you download or stream video or game online, you’ll want a fast line and it’ll be worth paying a little more for an uncapped line.
In general, your options may depend on availability in your area – the best internet provider Montreal has offers great fiber, but more rural areas may only have ADSL. Fiber is a lot faster, and less likely to be stolen than copper wiring. ADSL may be cheaper, but for multiple user office use, or anyone who watches or downloads a lot of online content, fiber is preferable.