The best DSL internet providers in 2023
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.
Best DSL internet provider
- 300-5,000 Mbps
- Monthly Price
AT&T offers internet, TV & landline services with plans starting at $55. To order service call: (855) 458-2223
AT&T Internet Only Plans
AT&T TV Plans
AT&T Triple Play Bundles
Internet 300 + Entertainment TV + Phone
Internet 300 + Choice TV + Phone
Internet 300 + Ultimate TV + Phone
Flexible bundling options
Quickly expanding fiber network
DSL service available
Extensive rural availability
Data caps on some plans
Contract required for best deals
Fiber optic availability
30,000+ Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide
Flexible options for bundles
AT&T Smart Wi-Fi - Stay connected room to room
Combine your services with phone, TV and Internet bundles
Availability in some rural areas
24/7 Technical support
Customer service available 8am to 7pm local time
- 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.
Best cheap DSL internet provider
- 100-940 Mbps
- Monthly Price
CenturyLink offers internet & landline services with plans starting at $49. To order service call: (859) 559-4352
Speeds up to 1000 Mbps
Price for life option
Mediocre customer service reputation
Slow DSL speeds
Price for Life contract - No contract, no rate hikes.
Fiber-Optic speeds available in 18 prominent cities
DSL high speed internet speed options
24/7 technical support
Price for life option with speeds up to 100 Mbps
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 its 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.
Fastest DSL internet provider
- 200-1,000 Mbps
- Monthly Price
Windstream offers internet & landline services with plans starting at $35. To order service call: (888) 512-5372
No data caps
TV bundles available
Gig speed option
Rate hikes after a year
Poor customer support reputation
Unlimited internet usage - no data caps
Month to Month plan - No contract
Option of internet and tv bundles available
Technical Support 24/7
Customer Service Monday to Friday 8am-6pm, Saturday 8.30am to 5pm
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.
DSL internet provider availability by ZIP code
Considerations when comparing DSL internet providers
Here are a few factors to take into consideration:
- Speed: 25 Mbps is sufficient for email, browsing the web, watching HD videos, and playing games. Look for 100 Mbps or more if multiple people in the house stream video, download large files, and/or engage in competitive online games.
- Pricing: Watch out for the limited time promotional offers: rates typically jump significantly at the end of the promotional period. Save money by shopping cable TV and internet bundles or internet and phone bundles.
- Equipment: The most economical choice is to buy your own modem. Most large internet providers provide their customers with a list of approved equipment you can purchase. Additionally, if you want wireless internet you'll need a decent quality router.
- Contract: Commitment terms vary widely. Cheap internet providers usually require at least a one-year contract in order to get their advertised pricing. If you want to avoid a contract you may end up paying a little more per month.
- Data caps: It's frustrating to hunt down, say, the best internet for gaming, only to find that you tear through your data allotment halfway through the billing cycle. Make sure you read the terms and conditions.
- Customer service: We've all been there - the internet suddenly goes down for no apparent reason. You don't have time to sit on hold for hours, waiting for a tech to get to you. Check out the American Customer Satisfaction Index to see which companies rate the highest.
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 that 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.
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DSL internet FAQs
Is DSL internet still available?
Yes, DSL still covers all 50 states and a large percentage of the population.
Who are the best DSL internet providers for rural areas?
DSL is available in some rural areas. You can use our ZIP code checker to find the best internet options available to you.
Is DSL the fastest internet connection?
DSL is not the fastest internet connection. Cable or fiber internet services provide faster speeds.
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.