Know Your Internet Options: DSL, Cable, Fiber Optic – NerdWallet

When shopping for high-speed internet, you ’ ll likely come across these three types : digital subscriber line, known as DSL, cable and fiber eye. All three are broadband services, which is a fondness way of saying they are faster than antique dial-up. Understanding the key differences among DSL, cable and fiber ocular service will help you determine which type best meets your internet needs.

DSL internet service

DSL service uses your local telephone cable to deliver high-speed internet. Unlike dial-up servicing, DSL uses separate frequencies for telephone and internet, so you can use both at the same time. Of the three independent broadband options, DSL is typically the slowest. Download speeds for DSL packages typically range from around 1 megabit per second, which is commodity for basic tasks such as world wide web crop and e-mail, to 6 Mbps or 7 Mbps, which is sufficient for music and standard video stream but could be a little dull for high-definition television streams if you have multiple devices connected to your Wi-Fi. A handful of internet providers offer DSL speed tiers arsenic high gear as 12 Mbps, 20 Mbps and even 45 Mbps. cable internet packages typically start at 15 Mbps to 25 Mbps, and fiber eye starts at 25 Mbps. The fastest, most expensive DSL service available can often be slower than the slowest, cheapest cable television or roughage option. Consider this sample of entry-level plans in Charlotte, North Carolina :

  • digital subscriber line : Windstream Communications, $ 40 per month for download speeds of up to 6 Mbps .
  • cable : meter Warner Cable Spectrum, $ 39.99 per month for download speeds of up to 50 Mbps .
  • Fiber ocular : Google Fiber, $ 50 per month for download speeds of up to 100 Mbps .

Internet service — providers, plans, price and available speeds — varies widely from city to city. even within a given city, what ‘s available can differ from blockage to block.


  • wide available .
  • low-cost compared with fiber eye or satellite internet service .


  • Slower than cable or fiber ocular internet .
  • actual download speeds are typically slower than the “ up-to ” speeds that providers advertise. This is not the shell with cable or fiber ocular .

Popular providers that offer DSL service

  • AT & T U-verse
  • Verizon DSL
  • CenturyLink
  • Frontier Communications
  • Windstream
  • More. . .

Cable internet service

This overhaul uses cable wires, rather than telephone wires, to deliver high-speed internet. The result is flying service. Maximum download accelerate tiers range from 100 Mbps to 300 Mbps, compared with a exceed end of 45 Mbps on most DSL offerings. Granted, 100 Mbps is faster than most households need, even when using multiple internet-connected devices. Lower rush tiers are besides available, normally starting at 15 Mbps or 25 Mbps. cable television internet service tends to be more dependable than DSL. A December 2016 report from the Federal Communications Commission found the majority of cable and fiber eye internet providers delivered download speeds as debauched as or faster than advertised. DSL providers did not.


  • Faster than DSL and fiber eye, depending on your software .
  • More authentic than DSL servicing .


  • More expensive than DSL and early options .
  • cable internet may not be available where you live. If it is, there may be only one supplier .

Popular providers that offer cable internet service

Fiber optic internet service

Fiber ocular is much your fastest internet option, but advances in cable engineering are quickly closing the opening. Download speed tiers range from 25 Mbps to 75 Mbps for fiber ocular internet providers. That ’ s on par with cable service. But when it comes to upload amphetamine, fiber ocular trumps cable and DSL. Upload speeds affect the timbre of video conferences and your ability to send large files. A cable internet package with an advertised download pace of 25 Mbps may have an upload rate of less than 1 Mbps. And a DSL box with an advertised download rate of 6 Mbps may have an upload pace of lone roughly 0.5 Mbps. By contrast, a character ocular package with a download speed of 25 Mbps may have an upload rush of 5 Mbps. And with some fiber eye internet providers, upload speeds mirror download speeds. Fiber ocular internet international relations and security network ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate as widely available as DSL or cable internet service. That ’ second because the serve doesn ’ triiodothyronine use existing cable or call lines. rather, fresh fiber ocular cables need to be installed to offer service in a given area. These cables use lighter and bantam glass fibers to send and receive data.


  • Faster download speeds than DSL, faster upload speeds than cable television .


  • not as widely available as cable or DSL .

Popular providers that offer fiber optic internet service

  • Verizon FiOS
  • Google Fiber
  • Lightower Fiber Networks
  • Frontier FiOS
  • More. . .

Other options


satellite internet access can be both slower and more expensive than the other options, but it may be the entirely choice for those in rural areas. On the top, it much performs better than dial-up and doesn ’ triiodothyronine use a phone pipeline, so your land line is free to use while you ’ ra connected to the internet.

Tethering and hot spots

not a fan of traditional internet serve providers ? Consider using a cellular data connection on your smartphone to connect to the internet. You can do this via tether, which connects your cell phone to your calculator via a USB cable, or by using your phone or another device as a mobile hot spot. This option is low-cost entirely if your internet use is minimal — think e-mail and basic web browsing — because it draws from a circumscribed data allotment, frequently from your cellular telephone earphone plan.

Mobile broadband

radio carriers like Verizon and AT & T besides offer mobile broadband service. This connects to the internet via cellular networks, similar to data service on your smartphone, but uses a separate mobile hot spot or radio receiver modem. Mobile broadband packages work a lot like cellular telephone call plans ; you pay for a set count of gigabytes each calendar month, plus a tip to connect your device, be it a tablet, a mobile hot spot or a USB modem. A 2GB plan with a hot position is $ 40 per calendar month through Verizon, before taxes and fees, so it ’ s not the most low-cost option compared with cable, DSL and fiber eye internet, which typically don ’ thyroxine limit the sum of data you can use. But it does allow you to take your internet connection on the road.


Dial-up internet service has not gone the way of the dinosaurs. In fact, AOL, the prime minister internet provider in its flower, still reported more than 2.1 million active dial-up subscribers as of March 2015. AOL is now owned by Verizon. Dial-up connects to the internet via your telephone line, like to DSL service. The main deviation : Dial-up transmits phone and internet signals via the same frequency. That means you can ’ thyroxine be on the telephone and on the internet at the like time. It besides means you aren ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate always connected to the internet, as you are with broadband overhaul. alternatively, you need to establish a fresh connection every time. Cue the glorious peep, squeals and screeches of a dial-up modem making a joining. Dial-up is much, much slower than DSL, cable television or fiber, so no way you ’ re going to use it to binge on a Netflix series. But for some, it may be the only option available. And it is cheaper than broadband internet. AOL membership, which includes dial-up access and a master of ceremonies of other features, starts at $ 6.99 per calendar month.

Choosing the best internet service

immediately that you can decipher the assorted internet options available, the adjacent step is choosing the best service for your needs. Two independent factors in this decision : what ’ mho available where you live and what travel rapidly you need. unfortunately, you may have small to no option among internet providers, depending on where you live. But you will probable have a few speed tiers to choose from. The more advanced your custom and the more devices you have connected, the faster internet you ’ ll necessitate .

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Category : Finance

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