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Spectrum vs. Verizon Fios: Which Is Better for Your High-Speed Home Internet?

These providers offer broadband service in many of the same areas in the Northeast. Here's what you need to know if choosing between the two.

If your home internet options come down to Spectrum or Verizon Fios, then 1), you probably live on the East Coast, and 2), your options are actually better than most. CNET's Trey Paul gave both providers high marks for fast speeds, competitive pricing and favorable service terms when he reviewed them in 2021 -- Spectrum received a 7.2 out of 10, while Verizon Fios scored a 7.6, higher than any of the two dozen or so providers we've reviewed to date. Both earned a place on our list of the best internet providers of the year, too.

Given a choice between the two, I'd have to go with Verizon Fios, largely due to technology. Spectrum uses a cable or cable-fiber hybrid network, while Verizon Fios utilizes a 100% fiber-optic network, which offers faster upload speeds and a more reliable connection. That said, Spectrum has its own unique advantages, such as low equipment costs, so the best provider for you depends on what exactly you're looking for. 

Read on for a full breakdown of both providers and how they compare on availability, speeds and pricing, service terms and customer satisfaction.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Spectrum keeps things simple with three speed tiers: 200Mbps, 400Mbps and gigabit service, which offers max download speeds of 940Mbps. All plans come with unlimited data, no contract requirements and a free modem rental. If you want Wi-Fi service, renting a router will only add $5 to your bill, which is a third of what you'd pay to rent equipment from Verizon.

One potential drawback to Spectrum, at least in comparison to Verizon Fios, is the fact that Spectrum primarily uses a cable or cable/fiber hybrid network. As a result, upload speeds are significantly slower, maxing out at just 35Mbps.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like Spectrum, Verizon Fios service comes with three speed tier options -- 300Mbps, 500Mbps and gigabit service. Unlike Spectrum, Verizon Fios plans offer symmetrical or near-symmetrical upload speeds. The 100% fiber connection that comes with Verizon Fios is also likely to deliver a better, more reliable connection, especially during peak usage times. 

Verizon Fios plans are priced a bit cheaper than Spectrum for the same max download speeds, but the equipment fee can wash out the difference if you choose the 300 or 500Mbps plan. At $15 per month, the equipment fee is higher than most providers, including Spectrum, but that fee is waived if you sign up for gigabit service.

Spectrum has a larger coverage area, Verizon has greater coverage density

FCC/Mapbox

What does that mean, exactly? Spectrum is the second-largest cable internet provider behind Comcast Xfinity, and its coverage map extends across 41 states in the US, including Hawaii. However, as the orange in the map above shows, Spectrum coverage is fairly sporadic in most states and centered around select cities and regions. 

Meanwhile, Verizon is available in just eight states, but the provider does a good job extending coverage throughout the area, thanks to a large fiber-optic network. According to the most recent Federal Communications Commission data, 64% of customers in the service area detailed in the map above (blue) are eligible for fiber-optic, or Verizon Fios, service. Verizon's DSL network serves the remaining 36%. (We won't get into that here -- but in short, if you have to choose between Spectrum or Verizon High Speed Internet, Verizon's DSL service, go with Spectrum, which is faster, more reliable and a much better value.)

But enough about availability. If you're comparing the two providers, you probably already have a good idea that they're available in your area, so let's get to the good stuff: plan pricing and speeds.

Spectrum versus Verizon Fios plans and pricing

You'll find three different speed tiers from both Spectrum and Verizon Fios, though pricing and upload speeds are slightly different. Verizon Fios tends to be a little cheaper and plans come with symmetrical or near-symmetrical upload speeds, a significant advantage fiber-optic service has over cable internet.

Spectrum internet plans

Plan Max speeds First-year promo rate Regular rate Equipment fee Data cap
Spectrum Internet 200Mbps download, 10Mbps upload $50 $75  $5 (skippable) None
Internet Ultra 400Mbps download, 20Mbps upload $70 $95  $5 (skippable) None
Internet Gig 940Mbps download, 35Mbps upload $90 $115 $5 (skippable) None

Spectrum pricing on all plans increases by $25 after your promo period. Before the price increase, Spectrum's gigabit plan is middle-of-the-road compared to most providers but is on equal footing with Verizon Fios' gig plan. The two lower tiers, Spectrum Internet and Internet Ultra, aren't the cheapest internet plans on the market, but the low equipment cost helps offset the higher pricing. 

Verizon Fios internet plans

Plan Max speeds Regular rate Equipment fee Data cap
Fios 300 300Mbps download, 300Mbps upload $40 $15 (skippable) None
Fios 500 500Mbps download, 500Mbps upload $65 $15 (skippable) None
Fios Gigabit Connection 940Mbps download, 880Mbps upload $90 None None

Verizon doesn't do promotional pricing, so your monthly rate won't automatically go up after a year as it will with most internet providers. That's not to say that Verizon won't ever change its prices, but a company spokesperson tells CNET that customers will be informed well in advance if new rates are ever in the works. 

I wouldn't be too concerned about the risk of a price increase. Verizon has a stellar customer satisfaction track record, which indicates that things like steep, arbitrary price hikes are uncommon. Even if Verizon decides to raise prices, those prices will likely still be lower than Spectrum's pricing on comparable plans after 12 months. 

Both Spectrum (orange) and Verizon (blue) offer internet service in New York City.

FCC/Mapbox

Verizon Fios is faster in the Big Apple

Verizon Fios is especially enticing in the New York City metro area for those in Queens, Manhattan, Staten Island and the northern part of the Bronx, where Verizon and Spectrum share service areas. In addition, Verizon recently announced it's unveiling a Fios 2 Gigabit Connection in the New York City market. There are plans to roll it out to Verizon's other markets later in 2022.

Verizon Fios versus Spectrum on equipment fees and service terms: a tie

Spectrum internet comes with a modem at no extra cost, and the router rental fee is only $5 per month, the lowest you'll find from virtually any provider. You can skip the equipment fee altogether if you have your own compatible equipment.

With Verizon, the equipment rental fee is $15 per month. You can skip that fee by using your own router, or purchase Verizon's router for a one-time fee of $300, which will pay off after 20 months of service. The easiest way to skirt the equipment fee is to sign up for Gigabit service, which includes your equipment along with some other promotional perks at no extra cost.

Both Verizon and Spectrum offer no data caps, no contracts, and no installation fees (probably)

Neither provider enforces data caps, and neither requires you to sign a service contract to get the lowest pricing. Plenty of providers, including Cox, Mediacom and Xfinity, will impose both and charge excessive fees for going over your data cap or breaking your contract early, so it's nice to know you don't have to worry about either of those headaches with Spectrum or Verizon.

Signing up for Spectrum or Verizon could come with installation fees, but you likely won't have to worry about those, either. Verizon waives the Fios installation fee ($99) when you order online, and the Spectrum installation fee ($50 for standard installation but up to $200 for gigabit service) can be avoided by opting for self-installation.

Verizon tied for the top spot in the ACSI's customer satisfaction ranks for internet providers in 2021.

American Customer Satisfaction Index

Verizon Fios steals the show in customer satisfaction

Organizations like the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power that track customer satisfaction have consistently ranked Verizon Fios at the top. Though Verizon's ACSI score dipped slightly year-over-year from 2020 to 2021, the company still tied AT&T for the top spot with a score of 71 out of 100. J.D. Power also placed Verizon Fios at the top in the East region with a score of 758 of 1,000.

Spectrum did not perform as well with the ACSI or J.D. Power, but I wouldn't say its customer satisfaction scores are particularly bad, either. Spectrum received a consistent ACSI score of 63 out of 100 in 2020 and 2021, which is lower than Verizon Fios and slightly below the industry average. J.D. Power also puts Spectrum in the middle of the pack with an average score of 704 across four different US regions. That's slightly below the ISP average of 716 out of 1,000 and lower than rival cable providers Xfinity and Cox in the same East region that Verizon Fios topped. 

If I had to guess, I'd attribute the gap in customer satisfaction between Spectrum and Verizon Fios to technology. A 100% fiber-optic connection, like the one you get with Verizon Fios, boasts superior reliability and connection quality over cable internet. A cable connection, like the one you get with Spectrum, is more susceptible to speed fluctuations and reliability issues, especially during peak usage times. 

The bottom line on Verizon vs. Spectrum: Verizon is our pick

Spectrum and Verizon Fios have similar speed tiers and service terms, but Verizon Fios will likely be the cheaper, faster (in terms of upload speeds) and more reliable option. There are some cases where Spectrum could be marginally less expensive, at least for the first 12 months and only if you factor in equipment costs, but overall, Verizon Fios will deliver the better value. That said, both providers are excellent choices for home internet service, so consider yourself broadband blessed if you have an option between the two.

Spectrum vs. Verizon Fios FAQs

Is Spectrum Internet as fast as Verizon Fios?

If you only consider the top download speeds, they might seem equal. Spectrum's fastest plan is 940Mbps and Verizon Fios' top speed is also 940Mbps (except in New York City, where Verizon offers a 2-gigabit plan). However, Verizon's lowest tier is 300Mbps -- compared to Spectrum's 200Mbps entry-level plan -- and its midrange tier is 500Mbps, which is higher than Spectrum's 400Mbps middle offering. Additionally, Verizon offers symmetrical upload speeds (meaning equal or similar upload speeds to the download speed), but Spectrum's plans max out at 35Mbps upload speeds, which pale to Verizon Fios' results. 

Are Verizon Fios plans cheaper than Spectrum?

It depends. On face value, yes, Verizon Fios is slightly cheaper than Spectrum. For example, Spectrum's cheapest plan is Spectrum Internet (200Mbps) for $50 in the first year. Verizon Fios' cheapest tier is 300Mbps for $40. So you get a faster plan for less money with Verizon Fios. One slight caveat is that Verizon charges an additional $15 a month for equipment, while Spectrum only charges $5 a month. That means that both providers are charging $55 a month for internet service. However, since you're getting a faster download speed with the Verizon Fios plan, your cost per Mbps is less (approximately 18 cents for Verizon and just under 27 cents for Spectrum) in the first year. The gap grows even wider in the second year when Spectrum's promo pricing ends, and the cost goes up another $25.

Do Spectrum or Verizon Fios offer fiber internet plans?

Verizon Fios is Verizon's 100% fiber-optic internet service, featuring symmetrical download and upload speeds. While the company offers other types of internet connections -- including DSL, LTE Home Internet and 5G Home Internet -- its Fios fiber plans are only available in eight states in the Northeast. Spectrum offers its three internet speed tiers to all its customers across 41 different states, but those plans are all hybrid fiber-coaxial cable connections, so the upload speeds will not be nearly as fast as the download speeds.

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