DSL vs. Cable Internet

Best Cable Provider
Xfinity Internet
Xfinity Internet
4.3 out of 5 stars
4.25
Starting from
$19.99
/mo
Monthly price
$19.99$79.99
Data cap
1.2 TB
Download speeds
501200 Mbps
Best DSL Provider
Price
$50.00/mo.
Data cap
Unlimited
Download speed
Up to 100 Mbps
Trevor Wheelwright
TV, Streaming, & Internet Expert
Read More
February 01, 2022
3 min read

You can get high-speed internet service from DSL or cable companies. A DSL (Direct Subscriber Line) service uses your existing telephone lines, so you don’t need to install other wiring.

Cable high-speed internet, though, runs through coaxial cables, just like your cable TV, and those cables need to be installed. But the trade-off is that cable internet is typically much faster than DSL.

Both technologies have nationwide service, even to rural areas. But if you don’t have either service in your area, check out some satellite internet providers.

DSL vs. cable speeds

DSL used to be pretty dang slow, but now we’ve seen speeds up to 115 Mbps (notably with Frontier), which rivals even fast cable plans.

However, on average, cable has higher speeds than DSL providers can offer.

DSL vs. cable speeds
Provider
Connection Type
Monthly price
Download speeds
Learn more
Frontier InternetDSL$49.99/mo.*Up to 115 Mbps
CenturyLink InternetDSL/Fiber$50$65100940 Mbps
Windstream InternetDSL/Fiber$39.99$69.99501000 Mbps
Xfinity InternetCable/Fiber$19.99$79.99^501200 Mbps
Cox InternetCable$29.99$109.99°251000 Mbps
Spectrum Internet®Cable$49.99$89.992001000 Mbps
Data effective 04/18/22. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* w/ Auto Pay & Paperless Bill. Per month for 24 mos. One-time charges apply. Max speeds are wired. Wi-Fi, actual & average speeds vary.
New customers only. Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply.
For the first 12 months.
^ For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
° For the first 12 months with a 1-year term agreement.
Mo’ money, mo’ speed
Price Tag

Cable companies still offer some lower internet speeds at lower prices, if that’s more your thing, but you can reach even fiber speeds with cable these days. Cable internet providers like Cable One, Cox, Mediacom, and Xfinity all offer 1,000 Mbps download speeds.

However, despite their great download speeds, cable and DSL are both older internet technologies—so you shouldn’t expect fast upload speeds with DSL or cable internet due to technological limitations. These networks were built with telephone and TV in mind, not the internet.

The fastest DSL upload speeds reach 30 Mbps, and cable upload speeds reach about 50 Mbps (which should still work for most users). And a big advantage of fiber-optic internet is its symmetrical speeds (same download and upload speeds), up to 1,000 Mbps—or 2,000 Mbps for a select few areas.

Not many people really need high upload speeds—but you do if you’re big on file-sharing or live streaming, or if you work professionally as a photographer or videographer and often send clients large files.

DSL vs. cable availability

One of the benefits of choosing either cable internet or DSL internet is that they’re available in most areas. DSL is available to over 84% of the population, whereas cable internet is available to over 88% of the population.1

To find the best DSL or cable internet service in your area, plug in your ZIP code to our handy-dandy tool below.

Find the best Internet Providers in your area.

Both telephone lines and coaxial cable lines run throughout the US, but sometimes those networks don’t reach more remote locations. (Rural areas are still a mixed bag, internet-wise.) If you don’t have cable or DSL in your location, check out satellite internet.

DSL vs. cable service

DSL broadband internet is not dial-up internet. It does use phone lines, but it runs on a different frequency than telephone networks, and works about 10 times faster than dial-up.

DSL is NOT dial-up internet
Megaphone

If you go with DSL, don’t worry: you won’t have the annoying sounds that come with dial-up modems. (Admittedly, some of us have nostalgia for those buzzes and beeps.) Plus, you can still use your telephone voice service without disrupting your internet signal—which isn’t possible with dial-up internet.

However, the quality of your DSL service depends on how far you are from your internet service provider’s hubs. They have a maximum distance of three miles, and don’t often go that far.2

DSL vs. cable price

DSL service can be as cheap as $20 per month, and the most expensive plans go for a little over $65 per month. So when it comes to cost, DSL definitely takes the upper hand.

You need to buy or rent a modem and router.
Money

We recommend buying a modem and router combo since otherwise you’ll have to lease one from your internet service provider. That can cost anywhere from from $10 to $20 per month, which may not sound like much, but it’ll add up over time.

You’ll also want a router to distribute Wi-Fi throughout your home. Some modems and routers come in a combination unit, usually referred to as a gateway.

DSL providers
Provider
Connection Type
Monthly price
Download speeds
Learn more
AT&T InternetDSL$55**75100 Mbps
CenturyLink InternetDSL/Fiber$50$65100940 Mbps
Frontier InternetDSL$49.99/mo.*Up to 115 Mbps
Windstream InternetDSL/Fiber$39.99$69.99501000 Mbps
Data effective 04/18/22. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
** Price after $5/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount (w/in 2 bills). Plus taxes $ fees. Limited availability. May not be available in your area.
New customers only. Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply.
* w/ Auto Pay & Paperless Bill. Per month for 24 mos. One-time charges apply. Max speeds are wired. Wi-Fi, actual & average speeds vary.
For the first 12 months.

However, if you get DSL and find that your internet speed is lacking, you may want to upgrade to cable internet. Especially if you can get much faster speeds for about the same price.

For example, a cable plan for $25 per month with 25 Mbps download speeds seems like a much better value than a DSL plan for $20 per month with 6 Mbps download speeds. But it all depends on your needs and priorities.

Cable internet prices from providers like Optimum, Astound Broadband Powered by RCN, and WOW! Internet range from $25 per month to $175 per month—and remember you’ll need to buy or rent your cable modems and routers too. Cable pricing can be pretty similar to DSL, if not better in some cases, considering the speeds you can get.

Cable providers
Provider
Connection Type
Monthly price
Download speeds
Learn more
Buckeye InternetCable$19.99$114.99††251000 Mbps
Astound Broadband Powered by GrandeCable/Fiber$19.99$49.9950940 Mbps
Cox InternetCable$29.99$109.99°251000 Mbps
Mediacom InternetCable$19.99$99.991001000 Mbps
Optimum InternetCable$29.99$79.99‡‡100940 Mbps
Astound Broadband Powered by RCNCable$14.99$34.99300940 Mbps
Spectrum Internet®Cable$49.99$89.992001000 Mbps
Suddenlink InternetCable$29.99$79.99‡‡50940 Mbps
WOW! InternetCable$19.99$64.99^^1001000 Mbps
Xfinity InternetCable/Fiber$19.99$79.99^501200 Mbps
Data effective 02/28/22. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
†† For the first 6 months.
For the first 12 months.
° For the first 12 months with a 1-year term agreement.
‡‡ Plus taxes, fees, and other charges.
^^ For the first 24 months with a 2-year agreement.
^ For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.

Overall, we’d suggest going with a cable high-speed internet if you can. Cable has higher bandwidth, faster speeds, a more reliable signal, and sometimes better costs than DSL providers.

Now that you know, here are your next steps.
Enter your ZIP code to see available providers in your area.

Still looking? Check out the top ranked providers.

Trevor Wheelwright
Written by
Trevor Wheelwright
Trevor’s written about YMYL (your money, your life) topics for over six years across editorial publications and retail/eCommerce sites. His work’s been featured on Forbes, RealSimple, USA Today, MSN, BusinessInsider, Entrepreneur, PCMag, and CNN. When he’s not researching and writing, you can find him around Salt Lake City, Utah, snapping photos of mountains and architecture or seeking out some good tunes and friendly faces.

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