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Comparing Speed, Pricing, and Network Details of Fios and Spectrum (Formerly Charter Spectrum)
Verizon vs Spectrum
September 8, 2020
Verizon Fios is our top pick for anybody who identifies as a “techie.” Fiber is the gold standard of home Internet and simply can’t be matched by cable when it comes to upload speeds and latency.
Fios is a good pick for gamers, remote workers, and anyone else who needs or wants the very best in Internet service. The upload speeds make a huge difference for real-time applications like Skype, Twitch, and etc.
Charter Spectrum is our top pick for budget shoppers and TV fans. While they can’t match Fios when it comes to speeds, the truth is that anything over 75 Mbps up/down is going to be “enough” for most people.
Charter has some great TV packages and value plans that more than make up for the second-place speed rankings. Consider them if you want to bundle services for a discount deal, or are a temporary resident who needs the flexibility of their month-to-month pricing.
Fios vs Charter is essentially a question of fiber vs cable.
Fiber networks like Fios are based on fiber-optic cables, which are specifically designed to carry digital data. Fios brings this type of cable all the way to your house, which is why it’s sometimes advertised as “Fiber to the Home” (FTTH).
Cable networks like Spectrum, meanwhile, are built on the back of older coaxial copper networks built to carry cable TV channels. They work well for digital data, but they aren’t designed for it — because of this, speeds tend to max out pretty low compared to fiber. Technically, Spectrum’s network is a “hybrid fiber-coaxial” network and they’ll advertise it as “fiber heavy” but it still uses coaxial cables for some portion of the last mile, whereas Fios delivers fiber all the way to your house.
Fios tips the scale in their favor when it comes to speed, due to having a fiber optic connection directly to consumers homes it can offer dramatically higher download and upload speeds over what is available via Charter’s Hybrid Fiber network which relies heavily on coaxial cable for delivering the connection to the consumer.
This speed difference is illustrated in the graphs and table below which show a picture of overall speed tests nationwide.
Charter and Fios get mixed marks when it comes to customer service. Unfortunately, your experience as a customer will likely depend on your local office more than the company as a whole. Fios is slightly better to deal with in our experience, especially as Charter has been undergoing some growing pains since merging with two other large providers in the past year (Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks).
Both companies have also gotten in trouble with local governments in New York for failing to expand their networks in a timely fashion as agreed in local franchise areas.
Fios and Charter offer two options for installation: self-installation and professional installation.
Charter will sometimes throw in installation for free depending on your contract. We’ve found Fios to be a little harder to bargain with, but that’s reasonable considering the extra hardware required for new fiber service.
The main consideration for installing Fios is time. While Charter usually takes just an hour or two, Fios can take anywhere from 3–8 hours depending on the complexity of your home wiring needs. If you want the blazing speeds that come with Fios fiber, just be sure you have a day to set aside to hang around with the installation technician.
Charter has a pretty standard setup when it comes to equipment: rent their plug-and-play modem/router “gateway,” or buy your own to save the monthly fee. Renting is a good idea if you’re a temporary resident or just don’t want to bother with handling your own network. Otherwise, we recommend purchasing your own to save some money and get the most out of your network speeds.Fios is a bit more complicated when it comes to your home equipment, and the average customer is better off just renting or buying the Fios Home Router directly from Verizon when they sign up. If you want to use your own router, it takes some extra effort compared to Charter. We go over the details of how to make your own router work for Fios in our Verizon Fios review.
If you’re a TV fanatic, Charter has some great bundles in the cable channel department — particularly for sports.
Fios has channels that should satisfy most casual viewers. Just be sure to compare your “must-have” channels to Charter before you make the call.
You can see deal specifics at our Verizon Fios deals page and our Spectrum deal page. We update these weekly with the latest promotions.
Looking for a quick answer here? How about this: Fios is for techies, Spectrum is for TV fans.
Obviously, the fine print is a bit more complicated, but that’s the long and short of it. Fios is by far the winner if you rely on your broadband internet upload and download speeds for work, communication, and entertainment. If TV and checking Facebook occasionally are your main concerns, you’re better off saving on the monthly fee with a budget bundle from Charter.
Whichever way you go, make sure you have the satisfaction guarantee in writing. All their plans should come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you aren’t happy, you can always switch or upgrade.
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