• Fios and Spectrum (formerly known as Time Warner Cable)[1] overlap in much of the Northeast, giving customers in those areas a wide variety of choices for budget and premium Internet service.
  • Fios wins our top pick when it comes to speed and reliability. Fios is a must-have for techies. Charter, for their part, is making huge strides to upgrade their network since acquiring it from Time Warner Cable in 2016.
  • In many areas served by both Verizon and Charter, Charter Spectrum competes heavily on pricing value and tips the scale in their favor, particularly for TV fans.

Quick Picks

Compare Verizon Fios and Charter Spectrum at a Glance

StatisticVerizon FiosCharter Spectrum
Price Range$39.99 - $79.99/mo+$44.99 - $139.97/mo+
Connection Type(s) Fiber Cable & Fiber
Customer Recommendation Rating on BroadbandNow.com62.4%50.0%
ACSI Customer Service Rating73/10063/100
Netflix Ranking9th8th
Population Served33,937,419102,024,000

Verizon Fios vs Charter Spectrum: Network Technology

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).

Spectrum frequently offers fiber to the Node service, while Fios offers true “Fiber to the Home” service.

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.

Verizon Fios vs Charter Spectrum: Coverage Area

Charter has a much wider nationwide coverage area than Fios, with most of their overlap areas being in the Northeast around New York.

Verizon Fios Coverage & Availability Map

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

Charter Spectrum Coverage & Availability Map

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COVERAGE CENSUS TRACTS

Verizon Fios vs Charter Spectrum: Speed Data

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.

Verizon Fios average download speeds

Charter Spectrum average download speeds

CityVerizon Fios SpeedCharter Spectrum Speed
Albany99.26 Mbps94.65 Mbps
Astoria221.86 Mbps117.8 Mbps
Brooklyn143.72 Mbps126.78 Mbps
Buffalo73.27 Mbps64.93 Mbps
Corona142.25 Mbps107.47 Mbps
East Elmhurst75.9 Mbps106.32 Mbps
Elmhurst122.78 Mbps110.33 Mbps
Far Rockaway98.11 Mbps115.27 Mbps
Flushing128.43 Mbps115.62 Mbps
Forest Hills215.19 Mbps146.93 Mbps
Fresh Meadows115.66 Mbps162.14 Mbps
Jamaica132.9 Mbps113.96 Mbps
Mount Vernon258.86 Mbps128.07 Mbps
New York237.25 Mbps151.98 Mbps
Poughkeepsie56.25 Mbps107.77 Mbps
Queens Village145.94 Mbps137.95 Mbps
Ridgewood142.63 Mbps135.96 Mbps
Staten Island118.96 Mbps120.05 Mbps
Syracuse78.89 Mbps75.37 Mbps
West New York106.38 Mbps37.99 Mbps

Verizon Fios vs Charter Spectrum: Customer Service and Reputation

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).[2]

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.[3]

Verizon Fios vs Charter Spectrum: Equipment and Installation

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.

Installation Considerations

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.

Modem and router leasing fees

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 of just renting or buying the “gateway” device 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.

Verizon Fios vs Charter Spectrum: Bundle Plans

Bundle of books tied together with belt.
Bundling services will save you with Spectrum, while Fios is our top pick for cord cutters who prefer to stream from Netflix, Sling, and other OTT services. Image Source: Unsplash

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.

Verizon Fios vs Charter Spectrum: In a Nutshell

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.


Experts

Robert Smith

Robert Smith

Robert Smith is a UX designer based in Brooklyn, New York. He enjoys sharing his knowledge about all things “user experience” through articles, op-eds, and how-to posts. When he’s not creating web apps, he enjoys cycling and reading classic sci-fi.

James Webb

James Webb

James Webb is a tech and gadgets expert with a focus on educational content development. He draws on his background in the startup world to make complicated technologies and topics easy to understand for normal folks.

Questions & Answers

8 ANSWERED QUESTIONS

Is FiOS or Spectrum better for college students?

Though it really depends on the internet habits of students, we recommend Spectrum due to its budget and no contract options. Spectrum also offers reasonable speeds that should be enough for most people.

Verizon claims there are no data caps on their gigabit Fios service in Manhattan. Is that true?

Always check the fine print before you sign, but yes — I am not aware of any Fios plans that have any sort of cap. Traditionally, they have always offered truly unlimited service. In NYC, keep in mind that Spectrum is also uncapped, so the main comparison point is speed and pricing. Both are a good pick for streaming since they don’t have caps. More info on Spectrum vs Fios in NYC here.

It looks like Spectrum has twice as much speed in my area. So why is Fios best for the "techie" type of customer?

Spectrum is a cable service, which means that their upload speeds will be a fraction of the download speed. On a 100Mbps plan, your upload speed (the speed you can “send” data) may be as low as 10-20Mbps.

Fiber is a “symmetrical” service, which means the upload speed is just as fast as the download speed. So on a 50Mbps plan, your upload speed will be 50Mbps.

A 100 down/10 up Spectrum plan is great if you primarily use your Internet to stream Netflix and scroll through Facebook.

However, you if use the connection for video chat, work, cloud apps, gaming, uploading YouTube videos, etc., all these activities will feel faster on a 50 Mbps Fiber connection since they rely on upload speed as well as download. So, even if the advertising for the 100 Mbps Cable connection looks “faster,” having a “slower” 50/50 Fiber plan will often feel faster than a 100/10 Cable plan for customers who use it heavily.

Does Spectrum use the internet bandwidth for their TV service in triple play deals?

Charter’s triple play deals do not use Internet bandwidth. The cable TV channels are delivered over the same cable without impacting Internet performance. That said, Spectrum has no data caps, so you don’t need to worry about using up data if you choose to stream from Netflix as well.

Spectrum has better pricing in my area but I'm worried it won't be enough for streaming. If Internet browsing and streaming are the primary uses, is Spectrum good enough?

Spectrum is actually a solid choice for streaming since they currently don’t have data caps, and the standard speeds in most areas are well above the minimum 15 Mbps for Ultra HD video. Keep in mind more screens equals more bandwidth/speed needs, but anything over 30 Mbps download should be plenty.

Does the Spectrum router support my VerizonWireless cellphone so I don’t have to use up minutes when I’m home? I don’t want to change wireless company. Thanks for the article, it’s been helpful.

Assuming you’re using a smartphone that can connect to Wi-Fi (pretty much all do), it should be able to connect to the Spectrum router when you’re at home to save your data. It should also be able to connect to any Wi-Fi network you have the password to, regardless of router brand and provider.

If Fios 75 Mbps and Spectrum 100 Mbps is available in my area, should I go with Spectrum?

The advertised speeds you see for Internet plans are usually the download speeds. The benefit of Fiber from Fios is that you get “symmetrical” speeds, which means your download and upload speed is equal. Spectrum’s cable connection is “asymmetrical,” which means the upload speed is much lower than the download speed advertised. I would go with Fios in this situation, since 75/75 will be more useful than 100/25 or whatever lower upload speed cable can offer in your area.

Can a Fios router be used with Spectrum? I am now using Verizon Fios. I have a new Verizon router. If I change my Fios service to Spectrum, may I use my own Verizon Fios router?

Verizon Fios’ latest router, the Fios Quantum Gateway, is specifically designed for their service and may not work directly with a cable provider like Spectrum. Additionally, it is not listed on Spectrum’s list of recommended routers: http://www.spectrum.net/support/internet/modems-routers-wireless-adapters/.

That said, some users have reported success coaxing Verizon routers to work with Spectrum service, either by hooking it to a separate cable modem or after extensive customization of the router’s settings. It’s worth trying if you already have the Fios router, and our experience with Spectrum tech support has been good — they will probably be willing to give you advice and attempt to make it work for you. Since it is not listed as supported on their site, there is not guarantee that it will work as well as their recommended router models.

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