As urban living grows, and with multifamily construction in 2022 already outpacing the previous year, residents are demanding even more robust internet connectivity for their increasingly “digitized” lives. Providing the top amenity residents want—fast, secure, fiber internet for multifamily properties—is more critical than ever. But internet service providers (ISPs) are not all created equal.

In Part 2 of our “Why Fiber” series, we’ll explore why working with a Tier 1 internet provider matters.

What is a Tier 1 internet provider?

Internet service providers come in three classes, or tiers. Tier 1 internet providers make up the spine of the internet. In fact, they are often referred to as backbone providers. They are the global companies that own the networks, equipment, and infrastructure that make up the main web of fiber-optic cables that connect cities, countries, and continents.

At the Tier 1 level, ISPs build their networks to cover specific, large geographic areas. Typically, they have peering agreements with other Tier 1 providers. Peering agreements allow for the free exchange of data and traffic between their networks for mutual benefit, at no cost. Tier 1s deliver internet traffic to all other ISPs (regardless of tier). But they only shuttle traffic back and forth with other Tier 1 providers because of peering agreements.

How Tiers 2 and 3 differ from Tier 1 internet providers

Tier 2 internet providers have some similarities to those at Tier 1, though their networks often have much more limited reach. And they don’t have the same direct access to the main fiber backbone. It’s true that some Tier 2s have peering agreements with each other (allowing them to expand their coverage). But companies at this level must buy bandwidth from Tier 1 providers. Tier 2 ISPs often use a complex web of different networks, which means data must frequently switch from one to another to get from Point A to B. These extra “hops” add up and can affect the lag time people experience when using a Tier 2 internet provider.

Even though ISPs at all three levels have residential and business customers, serving these bases is the top concern of Tier 3 providers. Companies at this level do not usually have their own network. So they usually lease both bandwidth and network access from Tier 2 providers. A typical Tier 3 acts as a gateway to the broader internet for residential consumers and small businesses in a limited local area—often a single city or possibly even a few neighborhoods. Routinely, Tier 3s focus on residential internet service and emphasize low cost over high technology.

Five benefits of Tier 1 fiber internet providers

Fiber optics internet

Knowing the differences is one thing. But for property owners or managers, which ISP is the best choice? In multifamily communities where remote work, Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud-based streaming dominate how residents live, the right provider can have a major impact. When looking at a Tier 1 internet provider, the advantages quickly rise to the top.

  1. Can Tier 1s give you the world? Well, yes. Only Tier 1 providers can offer direct, globe-spanning, dedicated internet access. When your service comes from a Tier 1 network, you experience the broadest global reach. Their private connections through peering agreements allow a Tier 1 provider to deliver the most-efficient data input and output across the fiber internet backbone.
  2. Technology and resources at a global scale. Because Tier 1 networks are built to handle the high volume of global internet traffic, they offer advantages Tier 2 and 3 providers don’t have. Tier 1 ISPs have greater raw networking power, plus the infrastructure and hardware to “pool” bandwidth. This allows for highly stable internet performance levels for consumers and businesses.
  3. Cybersecurity protection at a higher level. As the foundation of the internet, Tier 1 ISPs have much at stake when it comes to cybersecurity. In an age when hacks and data breaches seem to be constant, most backbone providers prioritize cybersecurity. They proactively detect and mitigate threats. For Tier 1 customers, this means their provider has a vested interest in knowing about the latest threats. They can also push large-scale firmware updates all the way down to end-user equipment—like modems, routers, and mobile apps.
  4. Other tiers depend on Tier 1 providers. Though they may be the most common, both Tier 2 and Tier 3 service providers rely on Tier 1 carriers. Ultimately, they must purchase internet transit from them to sell their customers full, world-wide access. This also means providers further down the chain are powerless to control any service disruptions at the Tier 1 level. Direct customers of a Tier 1 ISP won’t find themselves dealing with two or three different companies for information if something goes wrong— just one. And it’s the one most suited to provide the fix. That idea, by the way, springboards us into one more benefit.
  5. The power of one. Tier 1 providers own and manage their own private networks. This means customers deal with a single company from the consumer level all the way up to the internet backbone. For multifamily property operators, it’s essentially one-stop shopping without the proverbial middleman. They work with one company from end to end. Unlike Tier 2 and 3 ISPs, Tier 1 networks don’t have as many “jumps” to make, switching from network to network so there are fewer failure points. On a technical level, this translates into users hitting fewer weak links when they choose a Tier 1 internet provider.

Case in point: Quantum Fiber

Man using fiber internet at the pool

A prime example of a Tier 1 fiber internet provider is Quantum Fiber, a Lumen Technologies brand. Not only is Lumen a Fortune 100 company, it’s also one of the world’s most powerful internet platforms and a significant part of the fiber internet backbone. Quantum Fiber delivers high-speed broadband to multifamily communities, residential, and small business customers in the U.S. using Lumen’s Tier 1 global network. A key upside for Quantum Fiber customers is they benefit from Lumen’s advanced global cybersecurity monitoring and threat mitigations. When multifamily communities choose Quantum Fiber as their ISP, they get world-class speed, reliability, and security protections.

There’s no question that property owners and developers have much to consider when choosing internet options for their residents. Part of that puzzle is finding a service to help reduce turnover and “check” all the connectivity “boxes.” In the final installment of this series, we’ll take a look at why fiber internet matters from the residents’ perspective. What’s in it for them in a world where high-quality broadband has quickly pivoted from luxury to necessity?

Read Part 3 of the Why Fiber series.

Read Part 1 of the Why Fiber series.

Contact a Quantum Fiber Connected Communities expert to learn about connectivity solutions tailored to your multifamily community.

Quantum Fiber® Connected Communities provides customized fiber solutions for apartments and communities.

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