DSL internet is catching up to cable speeds, and we've got the scoop on which DSL providers are best
If you can’t get your hands on fiber and cable high-speed internet in your area, DSL internet might be an option instead.
Though DSL is slower than cable or fiber internet, it may offer okay speeds at a price that’s lower than satellite internet prices. And that’s why DSL is still one of our top choices for anyone who needs rural internet.
Plus, a lot of DSL internet service providers (ISPs) are updating those old DSL lines with fiber. This gives your internet speed a boost, but if you live in a truly rural area, you likely won’t see fiber infrastructure just yet.
Let’s dig into some of the larger DSL internet providers out there to see if one of them is a fit for you.
CenturyLink: Editor’s Choice
CenturyLink is one of our favorite internet service providers (ISPs) because it promises to never bump your monthly bill up, cap your data, or make you sign a contract. We can all breathe a sigh of relief now.
|Simply Unlimited Internet 100 Mbps
|Up to 100 Mbps
- CenturLink doesn't have any surprise price hikes
- No contracts
- No data caps
- This internet provider has some customer service issues
- The DSL speeds are as slow as 15 Mbps
What we like about CenturyLink
No surprise price hikes
Depending on where you live, CenturyLink internet speeds may not be anything to write home about. Your download speed can land anywhere from 15 to 100 Mbps or somewhere in between, making it difficult to gauge the true value at first glance. But we will say that, no matter what your download speed is, CenturyLink brings something to the table with its unlimited data and lack of contracts.
Plus, the ISP promises to not jack your price up. That’s a unique perk—most internet providers offer a low price for about a year, then your bill goes up.
Get Wi-Fi with a DSL connection
You can get a Wi-Fi connection for your home with DSL internet, ut you’ll need to pick up a wireless router. Your DSL modem connects to the router and you’ve got Wi-Fi, friend. Your wireless devices can connect to your internet access.
Now that both CenturyLink and Frontier are both in on this no-contract thing, hopefully other internet service providers will feel the peer pressure. So whichever DSL high-speed plan you choose, you are free to opt out whenever you like without incurring an early termination fee.
So yeah, you get unlimited data, you don’t have to worry about price hikes, and you can leave whenever you want. That sense of security is a rare find with an internet plan.
What we don’t like about CenturyLink
Almost everybody we talked to before writing our CenturyLink review had something negative to say about its customer service. One user was even ghosted by CenturyLink despite setting an appointment. The internet specialist just never showed up! Talk about poor customer satisfaction.
Nobody wants to go days without an internet connection, and shaky customer service can certainly make that possible.
Frontier: Best budget option
Frontier offers only one DSL plan, so the variety isn’t the best part. The real game changers are that you won’t need to sign a contract to grab Frontier DSL internet service and you get unlimited data. Nice.
If only other internet service providers followed suit.
What we like about Frontier
No contract necessary
When you sign up for an internet service provider, you usually have to commit the next two years of your life as well. It’s like an awkward relationship where maybe you want to break up, but neither of you knows how, so you just keep dating forever. (Just us? Cool, cool.)
Anyway, Frontier doesn’t require an intense commitment from you. You can sign up for any internet download speed that works for you and then cancel if fiber or cable internet finally roll into town.
We can't imagine you tearing through any kind of data cap with the relatively slow download speeds you'll get with DSL internet. But not having to worry about overages is a nice relief either way.
What we don’t like about Frontier
It’s a bummer you can’t get Frontier everywhere. (Don’t you hate it when you read that something is easy on your wallet but you can’t get it in your area?)
Hopefully, this isn’t one of those moments. Frontier is available in 29 different states—so enter your zip code below and let’s see how lucky you are.
AT&T Internet: Best bundles
Max number of channels
|DIRECTV ENTERTAINMENT + AT&T Fiber Internet 300
|DIRECTV CHOICE + AT&T Internet 300
|Up to 300 Mbps
- DIRECTV bundles offer tons of channels
- DSL speeds go up to 100 Mbps
- DSL speeds could get as slow as 10 Mbps
- No bundle savings
What we like about AT&T
DIRECTV is one of the best ways to watch all the things. Sports fans especially will love its massive channel line-up, which is why we named this satellite TV provider as one of our favorite network for sports.
Speeds go up to 100 Mbps
AT&T automatically hooks you up with the fastest of internet speed available in your area, up to 140 Mbps.
We don’t recommend internet speeds less than 50 Mbps if you can avoid them. And 100 Mbps is optimal for most families to stay connected even while everyone streams, games, and works from home.
What we don’t like about AT&T
While it's nice to bundle your internet and TV services, you won't get any discounts by bundling AT&T Internet and DIRECTV.
We mentioned it before, but if you’re stuck with painfully slow AT&T DSL speeds, like 10 or 25 Mbps, it’s time to see if there are other internet options available to you.
That’s because these internet speeds are far too slow to keep up with modern-day online activities like Zoom calls, Netflix, and gaming.
If you find yourself in this tough spot, try looking for a local internet provider that might offer a better deal or take a peek at our picks for the best rural internet for more ideas.
Windstream: Best rural option
Lazily driving along backroads in the country is one of our favorite pastimes, and you can imagine how shocked we were to see a big Windstream sign on a brick building as we slow-rolled through rural Georgia. But that’s one of the perks with Windstream: it serves the small towns other ISPs have forgotten.
And not long ago, Windstream’s choices were a bit lackluster. But this ISP has since stepped up its game, offering speeds up to 500 Mbps—or up to 2,000 Mbps, if you’re lucky enough to live in an area with fiber.
Internet download speed
|Kinetic Internet by Windstream Up to 500 Mbps
|Up to 500 Mbps
|Kinetic Internet by Windstream Up to 100 Mbps
|Up to 100 Mbps
|Kinetic Internet by Windstream 1 Gig
|Kinetic Internet by Windstream 2 Gig
- Windstream internet has no data caps
- No contracts
- It's actively expanding in rural areas
- Prices vary a lot by location with this DSL provider
What we like about Windstream
No contracts and unlimited data
Windstream also offers no-contract options and an unlimited data cap. Most internet service providers only give you 1 terabyte (TB) of data, and it’s nice knowing you won’t get any passive-aggressive emails sent at 2 a.m. warning you that you’ve almost reached your data cap.
Low prices for the speeds you get
Windstream’s prices are low—limbo low. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a provider that comes close, especially when you’re talking triple digit speeds.
What we don’t like about Windstream
Price hike after first year of service
As you can tell from the table above, Windstream’s pricing can feel a little misleading. (Sadly, most ISPs are the same story.) After the first year of your contract, expect the price to double. Make sure to ask about the price increase before signing up.
What is DSL internet service?
You might assume that digital subscriber line (DSL) is just a fancy term for dial-up, but while both technologies use your phone line to connect you to the internet, that’s pretty much the only thing they have in common.
While good ol’ dial-up means you can’t take phone calls while surfing the web, DSL lets you do both. (Thank goodness, right?)
DSL is also a lot faster than dial-up—and you won’t need to wait for all those beeps and trills before you click on Netscape, err, your internet browser. (Thinking about dial-up has us stuck in the late 1990s.)
But why might you pick DSL over cable internet? Well, DSL is usually cheaper and more widely available than cable, since pretty much every part of the US has phone service. Of course, there are always exceptions to this, but if you’re digging life in the wilderness, you can always check out our picks for satellite internet.
When it comes to DSL internet, we recommend CenturyLink, Frontier, AT&T Internet, and Windstream. Here’s a quick look at why these four ISPs earned our vote:
- CenturyLink: Editor’s Choice. Who could say no to CenturyLink’s promises of no price hikes, unlimited data, and no contracts? We sure couldn’t.
- Frontier: Best budget option. With a variety of (slower) speeds, no contracts, no data cap, and low prices, Frontier’s DSL internet is an excellent choice for those who prefer to save money.
- AT&T Internet: Best bundles. If you love to binge-watch, you can’t beat AT&T Internet’s DIRECTV bundles.
- Windstream: Best rural option. Windstream makes its home in rural towns where time moves more slowly. Plus, it comes with no contracts, no data caps, and some pretty rad speeds and prices.
Not sure DSL is right for you? Check out our reviews of cable and fiber internet:
Our team routinely conducts speed tests on our own home internet networks and collaborates with folks in other locations to evaluate ISPs and perform speed tests. Additionally, we use a vast dataset made up of Reviews.org internet speed test results gathered nationwide to gain a more comprehensive understanding of typical performance. When users perform speed tests on our website, we store their results in a database, which includes information about the ISP they used during the test. We have amassed millions of data points, allowing us to gauge download and upload speeds across various internet service providers.
To further enhance our evaluation of an ISP, we also rely on external sources such as the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), HighSpeedInternet.com, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), while acknowledging the limitations of FCC data, which may not encompass every ISP.
We also use outside sources like the Better Business Bureau, JD Power, and Consumer Affairs, along with social media sites like Reddit or Quora to get a more comprehensive view.
Long-story short: We balance our own proprietary data and personal experience with research from other sources.
If you don't need high-speed internet or don't have too many internet users in the household, you'll be fine with DSL internet.
DSL internet is more reliable than dial-up and faster than WiFi, but we recommend getting a plan that gives you at least 25 Mbps download speeds if you live with one or two other people.