Is fiber-optic Internet a good choice for my business?

After reading this article, you will better understand fiber-optic Internet technology. You will be in a better position to make your Internet buying decision.

What is fiber-optic Internet?

Fiber-optic technology transfers data as light pulses over long, thin strands of glass. It can transfer large amounts of data and is known to be the most reliable Internet technology. 

Why is it Gaining Popularity?

  • Speed: Fiber-optic internet offers significantly higher speeds than traditional broadband.
  • Reliability: It is less susceptible to weather conditions and electrical interference.
  • Bandwidth: Higher bandwidth capabilities make it ideal for businesses with heavy data usage.

Understanding the fundamentals of fiber-optic internet is critical to assessing its suitability for your business in Canada.

The Benefits of Fiber-Optic Internet for Canadian Businesses

Fiber-optic Internet is Fast

One of the most notable benefits of fiber-optic internet is its speed. Unlike traditional broadband, fiber-optic internet can provide:

  • Gigabit Speeds: Offering speeds up to 1 Gbps and beyond, considerably faster than the average DSL or cable internet speeds.
  • Symmetric Speed: Equal upload and download speeds, essential for businesses that handle large files or use cloud-based services.

Fiber-optic speed is unmatched. The accurate measure of speed is called throughput, the amount of data you can pass in a given time. The difference between throughput and bandwidth is bandwidth does not consider latency. Fiber-optic internet will perform better in both bandwidth and latency than other technologies. 

Does Fibre Internet Scale?

  • Easy to Upgrade: As your business grows, fiber-optic internet can quickly scale up to meet increasing demands.
  • Long-term Solution: Investing in fiber-optic internet is a future-proof decision, as it can handle evolving digital needs.

Scale means the ability to get more speed. It’s a good feature, and with fiber, you can increase your bandwidth as high as physics will let you go. Today a large enterprise with over a thousand employees still uses less than 10Gbps, yet 100Gbps is available with dedicated fiber-optic networks. Many small and medium businesses are thriving with 100-300Mbps. With fiber-optic Internet, you’ll never be left asking “Why can’t I upgrade my Business Internet?

Fiber Internet is Reliable

  • Less Downtime: Fiber-optic cables are less prone to damage and interference, ensuring more consistent internet connectivity.
  • Weather Resistant: Unlike copper cables, fiber-optic is not affected by extreme weather conditions, which is crucial in a country like Canada with diverse climates.

Fiber-optic Internet should, in theory, be more reliable. You’ll have fewer weather-based outages and fewer connection problems compared to copper-based service. Compared to wireless, the wind will never knock down your wireless antenna, as most fiber is underground. Some fiber is not underground, and extreme weather can still be an issue.   

Economic Impact

  • Increased Productivity: Faster internet means quicker data access and smoother operation of cloud-based applications.
  • Cost-Efficiency Over Time: Although initial installation might be costly, the long-term savings due to its reliability and low maintenance are significant.

Fiber-optic Service Guarantees

Many carriers point to the service level agreement (SLA) on a dedicated fiber-optic Internet service as justification for the higher price. As a business customer, this usually means you have a 24/7 operation center you can call to get your service fixed. 

Not all SLAs are created equal. Some are “best effort,” meaning they will do what they can. Some are strict and punitive, meaning you get a month free if the service is out for a few hours. This is your assurance that the service provider will fix your service quickly. 

Should Fiber Internet have data caps?

Data caps are often non-existent for fiber-optic services. This is because the fiber-optic network has so much capacity back to the central office and the core of the network, there is no need anymore to limit traffic. If there are data-caps on your fiber-optic service, take that as a warning the provider is overcharging or possibly using a wireless connection to get back to their core network. 

Is fiber-optic Internet in my area?

While it’s unavailable everywhere, it is available in most metro Canadian markets. There will, however, be differences in service availability from building to building, even in a market like downtown Toronto.  

In recent years, Canada has seen a significant push towards enhancing its digital infrastructure, with fiber-optic internet playing a pivotal role. This growth is driven by the increasing demand for faster and more reliable internet connections among Canadian businesses.

The stark comparison would be a service like DSL. While DSL is widely available, it is not necessarily good for your business. See our complete guide on “Is DSL Internet good for business?”

Is Fiber Internet Bad? Here’s the bad aspects of the technology 

Is all fiber-optic Internet Dedicated?

Not all fiber is created equal. 

Some carriers build fibre-optic networks with cost and residential services in mind, creating a GPON network. GPON stands for Gigabit Passive Optical Network. In this model, you may have one strand of fiber back to the local central office, and from there, you have shared capacity back to the main network core. This can have business considerations that I’ll touch on shortly. 

Is Fibre-optic Internet expensive?

Dedicated fibre-optic services are often more expensive than copper or wireless services.

This is because the dedicated service requires the ISP to allocate a greater portion of the overall network to a single customer. 

This is described well as a comparison. If an ISP would oversubscribe at a 30:1 ratio, they could sell 30 – 1Gbps Internet services (best-effort, residential grade) and only allocate 1Gbps of space on their network. At an average price of $100 per subscriber the ISP is making $3,000/month.  

That same dedicated Internet Access would be roughly ½ to ¾ that same price, because at the end of the day, the same amount of space is being allocated and used on the carrier network. 

How fast can fiber-optic Internet be Installed?

Fiber-optic Internet is often slower to install, because it’s common for construction to be required. On average you can expect 6 to 8 weeks for a summer install if construction is required. If you are already in a building with dedicated fiber-optic equipment, the speed of delivery will be fast. 

Business considerations

ConsiderationDescriptionImpact on Business
Increased PriceDedicated Internet Access (fiber) is more expensive than copper-based services. Consider if the benefits outweigh the extra cost of around $4-500/month. A calculation example is $400 / 20 staff / 20 days = $1/employee per day.Costly but can be justified if benefits align with business needs.
ReliabilityFiber-optic Internet offers high reliability with less downtime.Essential for business continuity and reducing the impact of internet outages on profitability.
Less Jitter and LatencyEnsures smooth operation of applications like IP Phones and cloud apps, enhancing customer experience.Improves operational efficiency and client satisfaction.
AvailabilityWidely available in downtown metro areas, offering a choice of services from major carriers and local ISPs.Accessibility varies based on location; beneficial for businesses in metro areas.
Slower InstallationInstallation can take 3-6 months, which can be a downside for businesses requiring quick setup.Planning and timing are crucial; could be a limiting factor for quick transitions.
ScalabilityFiber-optic Internet is highly scalable, accommodating changes like staff number increase, data volume growth, or evolving client interaction methods.Vital for businesses anticipating growth or changes in their operations.
High Download CapacityFacilitates large downloads quickly, such as software updates, large document downloads, or video streaming.Enhances efficiency in data-intensive tasks and offers ample bandwidth for demanding operations.
High Upload CapacitySupports fast cloud backups, seamless remote office connectivity, and efficient use of applications like Sharepoint.Crucial for businesses relying on cloud services, remote work, and data-intensive uploads.

Comparing Fiber-Optic with Traditional Broadband in Canada

For Canadian businesses considering upgrading from traditional broadband to fiber-optic internet, it’s vital to understand the differences and how they can impact your operations. This comparison delves into the key areas where fiber-optic stands out.

Speed and Bandwidth

  • Fiber-Optic: Offers speeds exceeding 1 Gbps, ideal for high-bandwidth activities like video conferencing, large file transfers, and cloud computing.
  • Traditional Broadband (DSL/Cable): Generally provides lower speeds, typically up to 100 Mbps, which might not suffice for businesses with high internet demands.

Reliability and Consistency

  • Fiber-Optic: Less susceptible to interference and signal degradation over distance, ensuring more consistent performance.
  • DSL/Cable: Performance can fluctuate, especially during peak usage or in poor weather conditions.

Latency Issues

  • Fiber-Optic: Exhibits significantly lower latency, meaning less delay in data processing, crucial for real-time applications.
  • Traditional Broadband: Higher latency can affect the performance of real-time applications, like VoIP and online gaming.

Cost Consideration

  • Initial Setup: Fiber-optic might have higher installation costs compared to traditional broadband.
  • Long-Term Savings: Fiber optics’ reliability and lower maintenance can lead to cost savings over time.


  • Fiber-Optic: Easily scalable to meet growing business needs without significant infrastructure changes.
  • DSL/Cable: Scaling up often requires additional infrastructure, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Contract length

  • You will likely be on a more extended contract for your service. This means a potential for future early termination fees if you decide to move your office, but most carriers will work out a deal if they can service you at the new location. 

Slower Install

  • Sometimes, you don’t have 3-6 months to plan a new office. This is one downside that you can’t avoid unless you move offices. This is different from something like coax or cable-based Internet. See our full guide on is cable Internet is right for your business

The Bottom Line

While traditional broadband might be adequate for smaller businesses with limited internet needs, fiber-optic internet is a more robust solution for businesses with high data demands and needing consistent, reliable internet service. The initial investment in fiber-optic internet pays off through higher productivity, fewer disruptions, and better scalability.

SpeedUnmatched in both download and upload compared to other technologies.
ReliabilityLess prone to weather-related outages, more stable than wireless or copper-based services.
ScalabilityAbility to increase bandwidth as needed; suitable for all business sizes.
Service GuaranteesSLAs vary; some offer quick service restoration, while others are best-effort.
Data CapsGenerally non-existent, offering unlimited data due to high network capacity.
Geographic AvailabilityPredominantly available in urban centers; varies within serviced areas.
CostHigher initial costs but can provide long-term benefits in productivity and efficiency.
Installation TimeCan be extended, especially if construction is required.
Contract TermsOften longer, with potential early termination fees, but benefits outweigh for many businesses.

Installation and Maintenance of Fiber-Optic Internet in Canada

Canadian businesses must consider the installation process and ongoing maintenance requirements when transitioning to fiber-optic internet. These factors are crucial for ensuring optimal performance and reliability of the internet service.

Installation Process

  • Site Assessment: Providers typically conduct a site survey to determine the feasibility and specific requirements for installation.
  • Infrastructure Setup: Involves laying fiber-optic cables, which can be more complex than traditional internet installations, especially if existing infrastructure is not in place.
  • Time Frame: Depending on the project’s complexity, the installation process can vary, ranging from a few days to several weeks.

Maintenance Considerations

  • Durability: Fiber-optic cables are more resistant to environmental factors and less prone to degradation over time than copper cables.
  • Technical Support: Most providers offer dedicated technical support for business clients, ensuring prompt resolution of any issues.
  • Upgrades: Fiber-optic technology is scalable, allowing for easier upgrades as business needs evolve.

Potential Challenges

  • Initial Costs: Higher initial investment for installation, particularly for businesses in locations without existing fiber infrastructure.
  • Physical Disruption: Installation may require physical changes to the business premises, which can be disruptive.

Regular Monitoring and Updates

  • Performance Monitoring: The provider regularly monitors to ensure optimal performance and preemptively address any issues.
  • Software Updates: Ongoing updates to network equipment and software to maintain security and efficiency.

Overview of the Calgary Fiber-Optic Network Case Study from the crtc

The Beginning and Development

  • Initial Steps: The City of Calgary’s foray into fiber-optic infrastructure began in the late 1990s with the Water Services business unit. This initial step wasn’t aimed at creating a city-wide network but was instead focused on meeting the unit’s specific needs​​.
  • Strategic Expansion: By 2002, the city had formed a steering committee to oversee the broader development of Calgary’s fiber infrastructure. This move marked a strategic shift towards envisioning a comprehensive municipal network​​.

Network Impact and Advantages

  • Operational Integration: The network connects various city business units, managing crucial services like water supply, traffic control, and emergency response​​.
  • Economic Benefits: The city leases excess capacity, or ‘dark fibre,’ to third parties, including businesses and non-profits. This not only creates a new revenue stream but also supports local businesses and fosters economic growth​​.
  • Enhanced Public Service: The fiber-optic network has significantly improved the efficiency and reliability of critical city services. For instance, the Calgary Police Service benefits from the network for transmitting live video footage, which is crucial in the era of body cameras​​.

Resilience and Flexibility

  • Adaptability During Crises: A notable example of the network’s resilience was during the 2013 flood in Calgary. The city’s quick migration to a parallel network, which was under construction, helped maintain essential municipal services during this natural disaster​​.

Timeline of Development

  • The timeline from 1997 to 2020 shows the gradual and strategic expansion of the network, highlighting key milestones like the construction of Calgary City Net (CCN) and the implementation of multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) architecture for enhanced network resilience​​.

Significance of the Case Study

The City of Calgary’s approach to developing and managing its fiber-optic network stands as a testament to the potential of municipal-led telecommunications initiatives. It underscores the capacity of such projects to not only enhance the efficiency of city services but also to contribute to the local economy and support the community’s broader digital infrastructure needs. This case study serves as a valuable reference for other Canadian cities considering similar endeavors in the realm of telecommunications infrastructure.

Future of Fiber-Optic Internet in Canada

As we look ahead, the future of fiber-optic internet in Canada seems bright and full of potential. This section explores the projected trends and developments in fiber-optic technology and its implications for Canadian businesses.

Technological Advancements

  • Increased Speeds: Continued advancements in fiber-optic technology are expected to increase internet speeds further, surpassing current limits.
  • Broader Coverage: Expanding fiber-optic infrastructure to more rural and remote areas is anticipated, bridging the digital divide in Canada.

Economic Impact

  • Boost to Businesses: With faster and more reliable internet, businesses can expect increased productivity and new opportunities for innovation.
  • Job Creation: Expanding fiber-optic networks will likely create new technological and infrastructure jobs.

Government Initiatives

  • Investment in Infrastructure: Canadian government initiatives to invest in digital infrastructure will be crucial in expanding fiber-optic internet.
  • Policies for Fair Access: Efforts to ensure equitable access to high-speed internet across different regions and communities.

Environmental Considerations

  • Energy Efficiency: Fiber-optic cables are more energy-efficient than traditional copper cables, contributing to environmentally sustainable technology growth.

Long-term Projections

  • Integration with Emerging Technologies: Fiber-optic internet will be key in supporting emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, and AI-driven applications.
  • Global Competitiveness: Enhanced internet infrastructure will position Canada more competitively in the global digital economy.

In summary, the future of fiber-optic internet in Canada is poised for significant growth and innovation, offering numerous benefits for businesses, the economy, and society as a whole.


If some of the business implications really stuck out at you – take a closer look at fiber-optic internet.

If Internet is not critical, and technology is not important to the business, then simply take the least expensive business option. 

Every business is different, but I hope you have a broader perspective on business implications Internet can impact, and how fiber-optic technology can help. 

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Michael is the main author and Editor on the InternetAdvice blog. With a decade of experience under his belt, Michael stands at the forefront of the telecommunications industry. As a Senior Telecom Strategist, Michael has witnessed firsthand the rapid advancements in technology and has been an integral part of pioneering efforts in the adoption of cutting-edge telecom solutions across Canada.

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