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What is difference between DSL, Cable, and Fiber internet?

Posted On     Thursday, December 16th, 2021

Looking for the right type of internet for you can be overwhelming. Look below to find out the difference between them! 


These days, having a reliable internet speed is crucial, be it for enjoying your streaming services, or to make a proper video conference at work. A good connection can make quite a difference on your daily activities.  


But shopping for internet types when you don’t understand how they work, gets overwhelming quickly. The type of connection you get impacts how well you can perform activities online, so it is important to have some knowledge on them before making a purchase. 


The difference between DSL, cable and fiber  

DSL cable fiber internet 

Fiber is the fastest internet connection of the three, with upload and download speeds ranging from 250-1000 Mbps. Cable and DSL have about the same download speed range, between 25-500 Mbps. Upload speeds, however, are usually lower, from 5 Mbps to 30 Mbps. 


Another difference that affects on how much speed you will end up getting is their structure. Cable uses coaxial lines, that can carry more bandwidth. DSL uses an older technology: telephones lines, which usually cap around 25 Mbps to 100 Mbps, half the speed range of cable.  


DSL providers usually build fiber lines close to homes in urban areas, which makes for faster internet speeds. 


Look below to see how each type of internet speeds compares. 


Connection type  Download speeds  Upload speeds 
DSL  5 Mbps to 35 Mbps  Mbps to 10 Mbps 
Fiber  250 Mbps to 1000 Mbps  250 Mbps to 1000 Mbps 
Cable  10 Mbps to 500 Mbps  Mbps to 50 Mbps 


Fiber optic internet 


When available, fiber has the best speed and service quality to get for your home or business. This type of internet uses a fiber optic cable that sends pulses of light through thin strands of glass or plastic to send data you households or offices. These strands are what guarantee more reliability and speed. 


Although fiber can deliver speeds up to 2,000 Mbps, most of the top internet providers’ plans reach up to 1,000 Mbps as mentioned above, which frankly is more than enough to watch TV series on a streaming platform or working from home. For the latter activity, upload speeds are essential, and these are faster with fiber connection. 

As with any internet type, fiber has disadvantages, and availability is one of them. Fiber’s structure costs more and having enough cables around entire cities is a big challenge. With so much competition, it has been difficult for providers to expand their reach. Fiber is available to only 45% of the US population, and most of it covers urban areas. 


Although fiber plans started costing more than other connections at the beginning, companies have been lowering their prices recently. When it comes to getting the best value for their service, fiber ends up being more cost-effective than it might seem at first. 


Top fiber internet providers 



Frontier FiberOptic 

Verizon Fios 

Ziply Fiber 


Cable internet 


Cable isn’t as fast and reliable as fiber, but it is widely available across the US, to nearly 90% of the population. It is one of the most common types of connection and is often available with TV and phone bundles from most providers, since its coaxial cables are the same as the ones used for cable TV. 


Although coaxial cables are not able to deliver the same speed potential as fiber, it is still one of the fastest internet types on the market. Most providers offer different speed plans, including gigabit with download speeds up to 940 Mbps. Upload speeds are not as high, however. Most providers don’t offer upload speeds above 50 Mbps. 

Reliability is not cable’s strongest suit, since coaxial cables are susceptible to connection disruptions and slowed speeds during peak usage times. 


As far as costs go, cable providers offer different prices depending on the speed you get. But generally, this type of internet is one the most affordable connection types. Some providers offer plans for less than $30 a month. Others start at around $50 a month, with download speeds up to 200 Mbps. 


Top cable internet providers 




Cox Communications 



WOW internet 



DSL internet 


DSL is often found in rural areas. This type of internet uses your home phone line to carry signal. Unlike dial-up, which gets disrupted whenever you get a call, DSL lets you use the internet without worrying about it. 


Although this type of internet is considered to be outdated, it is a more affordable choice than satellite, for rural areas that don’t have access to cable. DSL does lag in speeds, compared to other options, but since it uses phone lines do deliver internet, most providers offer relatively low prices. 


Top DSL internet providers 







How to choose the right internet type? 


Choosing the right internet plan depends on a few factors. Firstly, it is important that you think about your usage. Are you a heavy internet user who likes to stream videos, or just a casual web browser? It is crucial to get that down first, so you don’t overpay for data you don’t need, or get less speed than you need to get your activities running smoothly. Households with members who work or learn from home might want to get at least 25Mbps of download speeds. 


Next, and just as important is cost. Most providers offer bundle deals with TV and phone services, which can be a good option, because you end up getting a generous discount. Make sure to read the small print, because some companies offer discounts for a limited period, usually after the first year of subscription.  


Third is availability. While urban areas have different options to choose from, while others have only one or no options at all. 


Regardless, it is important to know a little about each type of connection to make sure you get the best possible internet for you. 

Written By: Larissa Bernardes

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