The speed of light is approximately 186,000 miles per second. Fiber optic networks, which carry laser light information signals, are moving that speed closer to the reach of the average home Web user with services like Verizon FiOS, or Verizon Fiber Optic Service.
FiOS uses fiber optic cable made from hundreds of hair-like strands of glass to send pulses of light to carry data directly into a home computer. As the laser-generated pulses of light reach the subscriber's home, a converter changes them into the electrical impulses that computers use.
Business and industry have used fiber optic technology for years to quickly move large amounts of data. Recently, however, fiber-to-the-home, or FTTH, is bringing the technology to the home Internet user.
With more Web surfers using the Internet to download and upload videos, movies, music and pictures, bandwidth and speed are critical. Fiber optic internet service represents a huge step forward. Verizon, for instance, claims FiOS loads music, pictures and video up to 25 times faster than traditional cable.
Although fiber optic Internet access is becoming more popular, FTTH technology such as FiOS is not yet available everywhere. Also, there are many factors -- including network structure and other hardware availability -- that determine the actual speed a subscriber ultimately receives.
FiOS also compares well in terms of price and features such as e-mail and space for Web sites. Verizon offers several plans with different options and pricing structures.