DSL vs. Cable Internet
Our experts explain the key differences between DSL internet and cable internet.
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) internet and cable internet are two of the many internet technology types you’ll run into while looking for a new internet provider. While DSL internet can reach speeds up to 100 Mbps, cable internet blows that out of the water with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps.
The DSL and cable speeds you see today are faster than ever, thanks to the fiber internet backbones that carry your data over long distances. Many of these fiber networks still depend on pre-existing DSL and cable lines to complete the last leg of your data’s journey: bringing internet right to your house.
DSL technology uses standard phone lines, but doesn’t interrupt your phone calls because it sends data at a higher frequency than traditional phone uses. Because DSL makes use of existing phone lines, it’s common throughout the US.
However, DSL tech falls further and further behind other technology types. Old phone lines and extended distance from fiber backbones can affect your internet speed and reliability. Despite this, rural DSL plans often cost as much as their urban DSL counterparts—which can be ten times faster.
Cable internet, on the other hand, works over cable TV lines. These coaxial copper cables can support faster speeds than DSL internet, but cable internet plans still tend to cost about the same as DSL internet plans, so you can get more bang for your buck with cable internet.
Also, if you like to save some cash on internet equipment, you can buy a third-party cable modem/router combo instead of renting one from your internet provider. This isn’t a viable option with most DSL plans because DSL networks don’t use the same standardized tech that cable networks do.
(If you’re really interested in DSL modems, we cover the half-dozen DSL network types and modem options in our CenturyLink modem article.)
Cable internet tends to offer faster internet speeds at the same price as DSL plans, so cable will probably be the better option if you’re choosing between two providers. Of course, fiber internet is the fastest internet technology, but it’s available only in select areas across the US.
To see which internet types are available in your neighborhood, enter your zip code below. We’ll pull up a list of the major internet providers near you.
DSL vs. cable internet FAQ
Our experts have years of experience researching the ins and outs of DSL and cable internet, and we used all of it to bring you this guide. For more on our research processes, head over to How We Rank.