Special Report—From AT&T to LeverettNet: Ranking the top 25 FTTH providers' 1 Gbps pricing

fiber
In our ranking of U.S. fiber providers, we found that most offer services within four price ranges.

Fiber to the home (FTTH) may offer the best bang for bandwidth in the broadband race, but how service providers price their 1 Gbps services has become a key subject of interest, particularly as these operators look to lure to new customers.

Google Fiber set the pricing threshold in the gigabit internet services market with its $70 a month offering. Despite only being in a handful of markets, Alphabet-owned Fiber's presence has influenced competitors like AT&T to adjust their 1-gig pricing. In 2016, AT&T launched its 1 Gbps GigaPower FTTH service in six areas at the same $70 per month price point that Fiber offered. AT&T has since made $70 the common price for its 1 Gbps service. 

In conducting our new report, we found four main pricing ranges. We then ranked each FTTH provider from the lowest to the most expensive for 1 Gbps services:

$25 - $60 price range: For the cheapest 1 Gbps service, look no further than LeverettNet and Sonic, whose FTTH services are priced at $23 and $40, respectively. LeverettNet was created as the first last-mile project built off of the Western Massachusetts-based MassBroadband 123 middle-mile fiber network. Windstream, which is offering services in 11 markets, offers 1 Gbps service for $60 a month. 

$70 price range: Eight of the service providers in this group offer 1 Gbps FTTH for $70 a month. This sector includes large ILECs such as AT&T, Verizon and Consolidated as well as one competitor, C Spire, and one municipal provider, EPB. What separates each provider in this bracket is the number and size of the markets they currently serve. Consolidated will immediately increase its FTTH footprint when it completes its acquisition of FairPoint later this year. 

$85 - $120 range: This set of service providers, including FairPoint and CenturyLink, offer gigabit service for $85, while Cincinnati Bell and Hawaiian Telcom price their services at $115 and $120 a month, respectively.

$150 - $270 range: Frontier and few smaller municipal providers, including Bristol OPSOne, FiberNet and early pioneer Bristol Virginia Utilities, have the most expensive prices for gigabit services: $150, $164, $199 and $270.

Besides pricing, we also looked at two other aspects of 1 Gbps FTTH growth: 

Markets: We tracked how many markets each of the service providers serve today. Unsurprisingly, large telcos such as AT&T and Verizon have presence in 53 and 20 markets, respectively, while smaller municipal providers tend to serve only one market. 

Locations: This shows how many homes or locations to which service providers have connected their fiber. Other than providing estimates, service providers would not provide exact subscriber or fiber-based connections.

So which companies have the cheapest and most available 1 Gbps FTTH services? Take a look at this chart below to compare pricing, markets and how many locations each provider has connected to their network.

Provider Type Pricing Markets Locations connected
1. LeverettNet Municipality  $23 1 650
2. Sonic  Competitor $40 6 not disclosed
3. SandyNet  Municipality  $59 1 not disclosed
4. Windstream  ILEC $60 11 not disclosed
5. AT&T ILEC $70 53 5 million
6. Verizon  ILEC $70 20 5.7 million
7. Google Fiber Competitor $70 10 not disclosed
8. Consolidated ILEC $70 5 not disclosed
9. TDS ILEC $70 6 not disclosed
10. Lumos Networks  ILEC $70 3 9,000
11. C Spire  Competitor $70 3 not disclosed
12. EPB  Municipality  $70 1 159,000
13. FairPoint ILEC $85 32 not disclosed
14. Ting Competitor $89 5 not disclosed
15. CenturyLink ILEC $90 17 1 million
16. Greenlight Community Broadband Municipality  $99 1 not disclosed
17. EPB Smartnet Municipality $99 1 not disclosed
18. Cedar Falls Utility  Municipality  *$105 1 not disclosed
19. LUS Fiber Municipality  $110 1 not disclosed
20. Cincinnati Bell  ILEC $115 1 400,000**
21. Hawaiian Telcom ILEC $120 1 203,000
22. Frontier  ILEC $150 10 1.2 million***
23. OPSOne Municipality  $164 1 3,200
24. FiberNet Municipality  $199 1 not disclosed
25. Bristol Virginia Utilities  Municipality  $270 2 12,500
* charges $110 in rural markets
** homes passed with fiber
*** approximate numbers

Regardless of pricing and availability, 1 Gbps speeds are still early in the FTTH growth cycle. Broadband Trends noted in its Global Market Outlook for Fixed Broadband Subscribers report that gigabit speeds are “expected to contribute 2% of total subscribers by 2022, with the strongest growth found in the 500 Mbps-1 Gbps segment.”

Analysts have different takes on just how big the U.S. 1 Gbps FTTH market is today.

A new study by RVA for the Fiber Broadband Association claims that out of the 30 million homes now passed with fiber throughout North America, over 13.7 million are connected to these networks.

RVA said the rapid growth of North American fiber networks is fueled by a combination of Tier 1 providers and many smaller fiber providers who play an increasingly significant role in fiber deployment. The U.S. alone has over 1,000 providers investing heavily in fiber. 

Fiber-based broadband isn’t just about speeds and feeds. RVA found that the availability of FTTH service is tied to more jobs, a better economy and new business formation. Cites that have available fiber services saw a 72% impact on job creation.

However, Broadband Trends disagreed with RVA’s findings, saying the actual number of U.S. residential locations connected to fiber is closer to 11.4 million.

Since there is an ever-growing array of new players coming into the FTTH market, we looked at 25 providers that have been making an impact. There are three main types of service providers that deliver 1 Gbps fiber-based services:

ILECs: Spurred on by the presence of Google Fiber and customer demand, traditional incumbents AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink have stepped up their respective FTTH deployments. AT&T and Verizon, while initially taking different stances on last-mile fiber, have expanded their footprints to millions of subscribers. AT&T says it’s on track to deliver FTTH to 12.9 million homes by 2019 with 2 million locations coming this year alone. But the large ILECs aren’t the only ones worth following. Cincinnati Bell, a regional operator, has continually seen subscriber uptick for its Fioptics service every quarter, while Windstream is slowly extending its 1 Gbps FTTH offering into more of its Tier 2 markets.

Competitors: A new crop of savvy competitors have entered the residential FTTH game. While others could emerge, four worth watching include C Spire, Google Fiber, Sonic and Ting. Alphabet-owned Google Fiber captured the hearts and mind of the broadband community with its disruptive $70 a month 1 Gbps pricing model. The service provider’s presence has driven incumbent telcos and even cable operators to alter their pricing when they come into a market. Taking the disruptive pricing model a step further, Sonic couples its $40 per month gigabit internet with unlimited nationwide and international voice service to 60 countries.

Municipalities: Fed up with incumbent telcos and cable operators not fulfilling promises to equip their communities with broadband, some local communities have built their own FTTH networks. Amidst a number of failed municipal broadband entities, Electric Power Board (EPB) in Chattanooga, Tennessee, found that their FTTH network can satisfy two functions: provide broadband and monitor their existing power plant. Municipal broadband remains a controversial issue. Today, there are laws on the books in 22 states that effectively ban or limit how far a city or town can build out its own network. Under former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s leadership, the FCC’s effort to preempt such state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee took a hit as a Sixth Circuit panel struck down the 2015 order. And now that Ajit Pai, a Republican, is at the helm of the FCC it’s unlikely the regulator will challenge the state municipal broadband laws anytime soon.