What is Gigabit Internet?
It's exactly what it sounds like; internet service providers (ISPs) are now capable of delivering download and upload speeds that soar far past the national average of 96.91 Mb/s (Speedtest Global Index, July 2018) and make it hard to believe that more than two million people in the US are still getting by on dial-up speeds of 40-50 kb/s.
Gigabit internet (often marketed using the figure 1000) doesn't quite mean that you'll be hitting or exceeding 1000 Mb/s. Due to issues of network protocol and re-transmissions, Gigabit speeds are much closer to 900 Mb/s, which will probably still feel like quite a performance boost.
What companies are offering gigabit speeds?
The big name at the beginning of the gigabit internet movement was Google Fiber. Their market dominance was short-lived, and their territory is now limited to less than 20 cities across the US. In these cities, you can get residential Fiber 1000 packages for about $80/month.
Verizon Fios is taking over the Mid-Atlantic region with 33.5 million users at the beginning of the year (Broadbandnow.com). They're offering gigabit internet for $80/month. Verizon is looking to convert customers within their footprint with exceptional prices, buying customers out of their existing contracts, and offering rewards like VISA gift cards and more.
Comcast--I mean, Xfinity--is also in the mix. Though they serve more than 30 states and offer internet speeds of up to 2 Gb/s, they don't serve quite as many customers as Fios and their prices are closer to $100/month.
AT&T also has some gigabit offerings across the country, charging about $90/month where their fiber network is available.
How is gigabit internet possible?
Gigabit internet is mostly provided using a network of fiber optic cables that transmit data at huge volumes and terrific speeds. Fiber networks function by reflecting light in an optically-perfect glass tubes that are thinner than human hair, allowing some fiber bundles to carry as many as several hundred individual fiber strands.
The biggest issue is getting fiber to the end consumer's home or business (FTTx), which is costly and presents engineering and logistical challenges.
Gigabit internet is also possible through copper cables utilizing new wired cable internet standards. Methods such as these will allow Xfinity and other cable providers to deliver gigabit speeds to much of their existing network.
If gigabit internet isn't fast enough for you, scientists have had some serious success in the terabit internet field using multi-core fiber optic cables and lasers. (Photo below taken from Wikipedia- laser receptor rated at 1 Gb/s)
Helpful Links: Gigabit speeds over copper cable lines, Network World Alphabet and their crazy internet schemes, Ars Technica Crazy good Verizon Fios deals, Verizon Radiologist James Busch and his wild 10Gb/s connection, Motherboard Gigabit ETHERNET explained, Lifewire Verizon Fios review for my Central PA friends, Broadband Now