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Which Is Right For Your Business: Fiber, Copper Or Standard Cable?

Although there are really only three main choices for a wired internet connection for businesses, the process of figuring out which is best for you can nevertheless be very confusing. That’s mostly because a “cable” connection can mean different things depending on where you are located. Just about all cable companies have fiber optic cable in their systems, but not all will run it directly to your business.

Let’s clear up some of the confusion by looking at each of the three options in greater detail.

DSL (Copper Phone Wire)

We’ll start with DSL (digital subscriber lines), since this option is available nearly everywhere from the local phone company and will offer fairly consistent speeds and performance no matter where you are.

DSL may also be referred to as the “copper” option since it comes to you by way of the copper phone wires. In the early days of the internet, analog modem connections tied up the phone line while computers were connected with it, requiring you to get a different line to handle phone calls. The newer digital connections allow internet to be piped in simultaneously with phone service on the same line.

You can expect DSL service to be consistent. No matter where you are in the country, you can expect to connect any time at a speed of anywhere from 15 to 60 megabytes per second (Mbps) download speed. The phone company will usually sell a variety of packages that throttle you to a certain speed.

The advantage of DSL is that your connection is not impacted by outside influences in the way that cable can be. Whatever speed you are paying for is the one you can expect to consistently get, day or night, regardless of traffic on the network.

The downside is that even the top download speeds offered by DSL are generally significantly lower than those offered by a good cable connection, and they are definitely much slower than fiber. DSL is generally only a viable choice if the local cable option is notoriously slow or unreliable.

Cable (COAX)

As mentioned previously, cable is the connection type that brings the most confusion about what kind of service you are actually getting.

Most cable companies now have fiber optic cables in their network, but in many areas these cables do not extend all the way to individual businesses and residences. A cable company can advertise “fiber optic” service in an area even if the actual fiber cable only runs as far as the local cable company offices. When regular coaxial cable is used to connect to the end user, the download speeds are more modest, usually ranging anywhere from 30Mbps to 300Mbps.

While cable connections can offer very fast speeds over a coaxial cable, the major issue with them is consistency. Speeds are affected by how many other people are currently on the trunk that you are connected to, and how much bandwidth they are passing. For example, there’s a fairly predictable slowdown in speed in residential areas when the work day ends for most people and they get home from around 4 to 6 P.M. Businesses that operate on banker’s hours obviously don’t have to worry about residential patterns, but if you work in or near an office building or complex with a number of other businesses, their bandwidth consumption during the day could end up affecting your network speeds.


A “fiber” connection refers to an actual fiber optic cable run directly to a switch at your business, where it is then converted to local ethernet. These connections are by far the fastest, are extremely reliable, and are generally the best possible choice … when they are available. The download speeds are the most stable, usually ranging anywhere from 10Mbps to 1000Mbps. Local fiber optic wiring is still not available in many areas. And even when it is, there is a likely premium over other options.

Keep up with our blog for more connectivity tips for businesses!

  • 09/30/2016
  • IT