A bundle of Ethernet cords laying next to the back of a modem.

DSL versus Cable Internet Service

In Internet terms, broadband simply means that information is sent over multiple channels using wires or fiber optic cables at higher frequencies than baseband signals used in their respective media. In plain terms, this means that it's high-speed internet! Both Cable and DSL are varieties of broadband Internet. Cable Internet uses your cable TV line to deliver Internet service while DSL (digital subscriber line) is sent through your phone line.

There are many similarities between cable and DSL. Both offer Internet much faster than dial-up, both require a broadband modem, and both allow their standard media to come out alongside Internet service because they use different frequencies. But there are also many important differences between the two that you should consider.

Cable Internet Service

Cable Internet service is the most widespread. It can be used anywhere that cable TV is available, while DSL can only be used within close proximity to a major telephone hub. This also means that DSL gets slower as you go further from that area, where cable internet speeds remain the same, but cable won't be available in very remote areas.

Cable Internet is usually much faster than DSL with speeds ranging from a basic 4mbps (megabits per second) all the way to 50mps compared to DSL, which typically ranges between 768 kbps (kilobits per second) and 1.5 mbps. Some DSL lines can go as fast as 3.0 mbps.

If you're lucky enough to live in a populated area, you might be able to score a good deal from cable companies by bundling Internet service, phone service, and cable service into a single bill, which is usually cheaper than having these services individually.

DSL Internet Service

DSL also has many advantages. Even though it's generally slower than cable, the speed will remain the same no matter how many people are on at any one time. With cable Internet, a large amount of people online can hog available bandwidth and slow down your service. DSL is also often much cheaper than cable – average rates for introductory plans are a fraction of those for cable service. There are also a lot more choices of speed and price with DSL, so it's certainly not a bad option, especially if it's your only option.

Last Updated: April 25, 2017