DSL vs. Cable Internet

Best DSL Provider
Monthly price
$29.99$199.99
Data cap
Unlimited
Download speeds
251000 Mbps
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Best Cable Provider
Monthly price
$29.99$299.95
Data cap
1 TBUnlimited
Download speeds
152000 Mbps
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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
ProviderConnection TypeMonthly priceDownload speedsLearn more
Frontier High Speed InternetDSL$20$60*6115 MbpsView Plans
CenturyLink InternetDSL/Fiber$45$85101000 MbpsView Plans
Windstream InternetDSL/Fiber$5$85251000 MbpsView Plans
Xfinity InternetCable/Fiber$29.99$299.95^152000 MbpsView Plans
Cox InternetCable$19.99$99.99°101000 MbpsView Plans
Spectrum InternetCable$44.99$104.99100940 MbpsView Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Actual speeds may vary. Installation, equipment fees, taxes & other fees apply. Services subject to availability and all applicable terms and conditions.
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 agreement.
Price Tag icon
Mo’ money, mo’ speed
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.

Megaphone icon
DSL is NOT dial-up internet
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.

Money icon
You need to buy or rent a modem and router.
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
ProviderConnection TypeMonthly priceDownload speedsLearn more
AT&T InternetDSL$40$50°5100 MbpsView Plans
CenturyLink InternetDSL/Fiber$45$85101000 MbpsView Plans
Frontier Vantage InternetDSL$29.99$199.99*251000 MbpsView Plans
Verizon High Speed InternetDSL$24.99$34.99**.5-11.1-15 MbpsView Plans
Windstream InternetDSL/Fiber$5$85251000 MbpsView Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
° For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
New customers only. Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply.
* Actual speeds may vary. Installation, equipment fees, taxes & other fees apply. Services subject to availability and all applicable terms and conditions.
** For 1 year plus taxes & fees. Verizon home phone service required.
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 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.

DSL providers
ProviderConnection TypeMonthly priceDownload speedsLearn more
Buckeye InternetCable$9.99$60††10200 MbpsView Plans
Cable ONE InternetCable$45$175151000 MbpsView Plans
Cox InternetCable$19.99$99.99°101000 MbpsView Plans
Grande Cable InternetCable/Fiber$35.99$69.993001000 MbpsView Plans
Mediacom InternetCable$39.99$79.99601000 MbpsView Plans
Optimum InternetCable$44.99$64.99200400 MbpsView Plans
RCN InternetCable$24.99$59.99251000 MbpsView Plans
Spectrum InternetCable$44.99$104.99100940 MbpsView Plans
Suddenlink InternetCable$34.99$64.991001000 MbpsView Plans
WOW! InternetCable$39.99$79.99‡‡1001000 MbpsView Plans
Xfinity InternetCable/Fiber$29.99$299.95^152000 MbpsView Plans
Data effective 11/19/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
†† For the first 6 months.
° For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
For the first 12 months.
‡‡ 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.

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