DSL Internet Providers

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Sean Jackson
November 23, 2020

What is DSL Internet?

A digital subscriber line (DSL) refers to technology that allows digital data to be transmitted at a high speed over telephone lines — without impacting phone service. It’s not as fast as more recent technologies like fiber, but has speeds that range from roughly 128 Kbps to 30 Mbps. Although DSL might not offer enough bandwidth if you’re a heavy gamer or do a lot of HD streaming, it is probably sufficient if you’re a moderate user of online resources and don’t have too many connected devices. 

Although DSL is sometimes confused with dial-up service, it’s not the same thing. It’s faster, and unlike dial-up, you can use your phone and connect to the internet at the same time, even though the two are sharing a line. Home-based DSL generally uses asymmetrical data transfer, which means the speed with which you can download something off the internet is faster than upload speeds. That may make DSL a bad choice for you if you have an active YouTube channel that you’re uploading to regularly, for example.

Overview of DSL Internet Providers

ProviderStarting PriceMax SpeedsData LimitsContract LengthAvailability
$45.006 Mbps1 TB1 Year40%
$39.9915 MbpsNone1 Year18%
$49.0015 Mbps1 TBNone16%
$27.996 MbpsNone1 Year11%
$19.99200 MbpsNoneNone3%

Best DSL Internet Providers

Explore the DSL providers available in your area by entering your ZIP code below:

AT&T

AT&T internet

Starting at $45.00 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Up to 75 Mbps download speed
  • Installation of some plans includes Internet Security Suite® powered by McAfee©.
  • Uses VDSL technology, which is uncommon in home setups, but enables the delivery of TV service and is somewhat faster.
  • 30,000+ hotspots available nationwide.
  • ACSI (American Consumer Satisfaction Index) rating: 69
  • DSL is only an option if fiber is not available in your area.

Learn more about AT&T

Verizon

Verizon internet

Starting at $39.99 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Download speeds up to 940 Mbps
  • No data caps
  • No annual contract
  • If you purchase your equipment from Verizon, you’ll get a wireless router with firewall protection and connection to multiple devices.
  • For an additional cost, Verizon TechSure offers identity theft protection, 24/7 tech support, McAfee security and more.
  • ACSI rating: 70
  • DSL available in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Learn more about Verizon

CenturyLink

CenturyLink internet

Starting at $49.00 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Internet speeds up to 940 Mbps
  • No contracts. No rate hikes
  • Speed may not be available in your area
  • Additional taxes, fees and surcharges apply
  • See offer details
  • “Price for Life” feature on certain plans protects you from rate increases.
  • No contracts.
  • Residential services include anti-virus protection; for a fee, CenturyLink @Ease is available that provides additional support and security and identity protection features.
  • ACSI rating: 59
  • CenturyLink is available in: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Learn more about CenturyLink

Frontier

Frontier internet

Starting at $27.99 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Speed: 6 Mbps
  • No contracts
  • 24/7 tech support.
  • ACSI rating: 55
  • One-year price lock guarantee.
  • Available in 25 states.

Learn more about Frontier

Kinetic by Windstream

Kinetic internet

Starting at $19.99 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • High speed internet up to 1 Gigabit
  • No contracts
  • No data caps
  • Installation fees apply; waived if you install yourself.
  • No coverage in the Western U.S.
  • ACSI rating: 57

Learn more about Kinetic by Windstream

Who Uses DSL Internet?

DSL is a good choice for casual web users. If you use the internet to check your email, browse through social media and even watch an occasional video, DSL is perfect for you. It’s also a good choice if you’re trying to save money, since most internet service providers (ISPs) charge less for DSL than they do for fiber or cable plans. You run into trouble with DSL if you are a heavy user of the internet, frequently uploading or downloading files, gaming or binging on Netflix shows while others are also using your broadband. That may increase your latency enough to be annoying.

Gaming, for example, takes at least 3 Mbps, although for the ultimate gaming experience, ISPs recommend as much as 300 Mbps. So if your League of Legends champion is in the middle of an epic battle and your roommate wants to check out the latest ultra HD quality movie on Netflix, which takes another 25 Mbps, you could be in trouble with DSL.

The latest reports from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in December 2018 show that in the U.S., only 20.58% of the population have DSL coverage.

Top 10 states with DSL internet

State% of Coverage
Colorado39.43%
Arizona38.34%
Utah36.70%
New Mexico26.85%
Minnesota23.76%
Idaho23.09%
Washington22.81%
Oregon19.08%
Iowa12.86%
North Dakota12.41%
Source: FCC

Read more about DSL availability compared to other broadband services in the U.S.

How Does DSL Compare to Other Internet Types?

DSL internet vs. satellite

High-speed DSL helps you reach much better speeds than satellite internet. With satellite internet, the satellites orbit around the earth about 22,000 miles away. Because of this, service features high latency (aka slowdown) compared to other options like DSL service. User capacity is also more limited with satellites compared to DSL, which also contributes to slowdowns. And while many satellite providers have relatively low data caps, our top DSL internet providers have much higher caps, or even none at all, so you’re not penalized after streaming a certain amount each month.

DSL internet vs. cable internet

DSL and cable connect with your home differently: DSL using phone lines, while cable accesses your home via coaxial cable, which also provides cable TV services. Coaxial cables are more robust than phone lines and are often buried underground, therefore less likely to be damaged in the event of a storm, making cable more reliable. Cable access is sometimes faster than DSL, though there are multiple factors to consider here, including the level of service and how many other people are using the cable line, as well as your distance from the ISP hub, in the case of DSL. Installation of cable can be pricey if you don’t already have cable coming into your home.

DSL internet vs. fiber

Fiber optics offers state-of-the-art connection over cables with a core of fiber optic glass or plastic. It features the fastest possible internet service, as high as 1Gbps — much faster than DSL. But that speed has a cost: Fiber optic connections are not yet available everywhere, and where they are, the monthly plans are more expensive than either DSL or cable, often in the triple digits. There’s a lot of research and development currently going on with fiber optics and we will see more of this form of internet access in the future.

What Equipment Do I Need for DSL Internet?

When you sign up for service, your internet provider will supply you with all the equipment you’ll need. This includes:

A phone line: The technician activating your service uses your phone line’s wires to connect to the internet.

DSL modem: This is your hub where you’ll connect your computer to access the internet. With some providers, they might use a WiFi gateway instead. 

Line filters: These filters go into your phone jacks. 

Tips for Shopping for DSL Internet

As you compare providers, there are several things you’ll want to consider among each. The first is the speeds offered by the provider, as this indicates what kind of internet experience you’ll have. In addition, you’ll want to see if the provider imposes any restrictions by way of data caps. 

How fast is DSL internet?

The speed depends on where you live and which providers are available in your area. The range can be as slow as 6 Mbps or as fast as 200 Mbps, which rivals what cable internet providers offer. Each provider measures its speed based on downloads. This is the length of time it takes for a server to fulfill your request such as loading a movie you selected on Netflix. Since different activities require varying speeds, here’s a breakdown to help you see how much speed you might need based on everyday online activities:

  • Stream videos in SD: 3 Mbps
  • Email/surfing the web: 3 Mbps
  • Video calling through Skype, Zoom, etc: 10 Mbps
  • Online gaming: At least 10 Mbps

DSL data caps

Another term you might come across is data caps. Some providers cap your data usage monthly whereas others might not. For those that do, it’s important to understand how much data you’ll need that way you can determine if they’ll meet your needs. Here’s how much data each online activity consumes:

  • 1 email: 20 KB
  • 1 min. of web surfing: 250 KB
  • 1 photo uploaded: 5 MB
  • 1 HD video: 41.7 MB
  • 1 minute of online gaming: 200 KB

Armed with this information, you can use this calculator to determine how much data you’ll need per month.

Pros and cons of DSL internet

Pros

  • Affordable price points
  • Some providers offer service without any contracts
  • You’ll receive a strong signal when computer is near or connected to DSL equipment

Cons

  • Compared to cable, many speeds offered will be slower
  • Reliability could be weaker if you live far away from a signal
  • Availability might be limited in more rural areas

Frequently Asked Questions About DSL Internet

Is DSL internet still used?

Some internet providers still use DSL but most are replacing it with fiber-optic options. If you’re wondering if DSL internet is available to you, the answer depends on where you live

How fast is DSL internet?

DSL download speeds generally range from 1-35 Mbps, which makes it nearly as fast as cable, but slower than fiber-optic. The speed of your DSL service can be impacted by how far you are from your phone company hub and the quality of your phone lines.


Does DSL internet have WiFi?

Many people who want to know what exactly is DSL internet wonder if they get WiFi with it. You can use WiFI with DSL internet, you’ll just need to hook up a router to send the signal throughout your home.

Does DSL internet need a phone line?

Yes, while you don’t need phone service, you do need a phone jack in order to get service. 

Is DSL internet good for gaming?

According to the FCC, gaming uses between 3 and 4 Mbps, including online multiplayer games. Assuming others in your household aren’t streaming at the same time, your DSL speeds should be able to handle gaming.

Is DSL better than cable internet?

Cable internet comes with faster speeds than DSL. In a 2017 speed test by the FCC, both cable upload speeds and download speeds were more than twice as fast compared to DSL.