DSL service has come a long way over the past 25 years. When Internet access first became available to the general public in the late 1980s, dial-up Internet was the only option for getting online.
By the late '90s, however, DSL service had moved onto the scene, providing a higher speed connection and improving rural internet options in particular.
According to the United States Census Bureau, roughly one in five connected households uses DSL internet service.
If you're trying to decide whether to choose DSL internet for your home, you'll want to know exactly what you're getting with this technology, and whether it will meet your needs.
The Best DSL Internet Providers
Best DSL Internet Provider: AT&T
- Cost - AT&T DSL costs less than other providers. (But remember you get what you pay for.)
- Coverage - Like we said AT&T covers a vast portion of the nation.
- Data - AT&T DSL gives you 1TB of data/month.
- Speed - AT&T DSL internet is great for users who aren't tied to their screens 24/7. Meaning, you'll be lucky if you can get through a YouTube video without it lagging.
AT&T Internet Plans
|AT&T Internet 1000||1000 Mbps||$49.99|
Best Cheap DSL Internet: CenturyLink
CenturyLink is known for having the best prices amongst other DSL providers. But that's just one of the amazing things they have to offer:
- Speed - CenturyLink is by far the fastest of it's main competitors when it comes to speed.
- Plans - CenturyLink offers more plans than their regular 12 Mbps DSL one. They have a second plan that's broadband and offers 40 Mbps.
And now for the bad:
- Contracts - You need to enter a pretty long contract to get CenturyLink.
- Fees - CenturyLink charges you early termination fees.
CenturyLink Internet Plans
|CenturyLink Internet 100 Mbps||100 Mbps||$49|
|CenturyLink Internet 1Gbps||1000 Mbps||$65|
Fastest Internet Speed: Windstream
Windstream is a lesser-known DSL internet provider but it has a LOT to offer. Such as:
- Speed - Windstream offers download speeds as much as 50 Mbps.
- Price - All that internet and at an even more impressive price. Windstream's prices are more reasonable and are matched by only CenturyLink's broadband plan.
There is a reason, however, why this provider wasn't picked as best overall. Those would be:
- Contracts - Windstream requires at least a 12-month contract when you switch.
- Fees - They charge you an outrageous amount for early termination.
- Scarcity - Windstream is offered in 22 states but they cover as little as 1% of some of the states they cover.
Windstream Internet Plans
|Windstream Kinetic Internet 25||25 Mbps||$27|
|Windstream Kinetic Internet 500||500 Mbps||$46|
|Windstream Kinetic Internet Gig||1000 Mbps||$53|
There are two commonly used versions of consumer DSL internet service - ADSL and VDSL. There are other variations, however, the DSL internet plans you will be choosing from are likely to be powered by one of these two technologies.
- Asymmetric DSL: Asymmetric DSL refers to the slower type of DSL connection. Asymmetric means that the download speed - the speed at which information reaches your computer - is faster than the upload speed (the rate at which you can, for example, upload photos to the web).
- VDSL: A Very-high-bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line provides faster speeds, usually at a higher price. These faster speeds are possible because many high-speed internet service DSL providers are installing fiber optic cables from the central office to neighborhoods.
- DSL Lite - DSL Lite may be cheaper than regular DSL and is faster than dial-up. Some companies, such as AT&T, offer DSL Lite as the first, slowest option in a list of speeds. AT&T has DSL Lite, DSL Ultra, and DSL Extreme, for instance.
DSL vs Cable Internet
In a way, comparing DSL internet with cable Internet access is like comparing apples and oranges. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages, depending largely upon your geographical location.
For instance, if you live in a rural area, you'll likely only have access to satellite internet, dial-up Internet, and DSL. If you do find yourself choosing between DSL and cable internet, you'll want to take the following factors into consideration.
1. Speed - Cable is capable of higher download speeds than DSL, with some plans delivering up to 100Mbps. One thing to remember about speed, whether you have a cable or DSL internet connection, is that various factors can affect whether or not you're getting the maximum rate available from your provider. Outdated DSL modems or Cable modems can slow down your upload and download speeds, as can routers which aren't capable of facilitating the latest speeds.
2. Security - Traditionally, DSL internet service has been thought of as more secure, due to the fact that your phone line is your own, whereas cable is a shared line with neighbors.
3. Reliability of Connection - Despite the lure of potential maximum speeds, both cable and DSL high-speed internet connections can suffer the effects of outside influences. Because cable is a shared connection, you can experience slowdowns during peak usage times if there are a lot of people in your neighborhood online simultaneously.
4. Cost - Our analysis showed that prices between cable and DSL internet and telephone companies are fairly comparable, although there are - as usual - other factors involved. The main price benefit of cable comes with the ability to order cable and internet bundles, such as these bundles here. If you're a cable television subscriber, then you may be able to save a considerable amount on your internet just by bundling the two services together.
Key Considerations When Choosing a DSL Internet Provider
Information on internet providers is scattered across the web. So before you decide to compare them be sure you know what you're looking for in a provider. Ask yourself:
- What providers are in your area? Find your local internet providers by zip code.
- What type of connection are you looking for? Are you looking for DSL, satellite, cable internet, or fiber-optic?
- What's more important: Price or Speed? Because, unfortunately, sometimes you have to choose.
What is DSL and How Does it Work?
Originally dubbed Digital Subscriber Loop, DSL is more commonly known today as Digital Subscriber Line. Line and loop both refer to the connection between the phone exchange and your home.
Essentially DSL is a way of using extra upstream and downstream bandwidth in your telephone company lines to send data signals to your computer or router.
DSL internet works by sending a digital data request instead of an analog signal along the following route:
- Computer to the phone line
- The phone line to your outdoor phone box
- Phone box to street wiring
- Street wiring to phone company exchange office
- Exchange to your ISP
- ISP to the internet
As the signal returns to your home, it passes through a filter which separates the telephone lines signal from the internet connection signal. This is so that you don't get audible interference from the data transfer when you talk on your phone.
Not too long ago, many thought DSL's days were numbered. In fact, in 2011 the CEO of AT&T called the technology "obsolete".
This is particularly ironic in retrospect considering that AT&T is now one of the first in line testing out G.fast access in the consumer marketplace. The best internet providers may very well eventually be offering G.fast service.
There's no doubt this type of connection is still the main player in the realm of high-speed internet access. It offers you a convenient way to use your home's existing wiring to get online with a much faster connection than through dial-up, at an affordable cost. Its future is certainly looking bright to boot.
If you're looking for the fastest internet providers in your area, use our handy zip code checker to find out which companies service your location.