DSL Internet Providers

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DecisionData Team
August 26, 2020

What is DSL Internet?

DSL, or digital subscriber line, refers to technology that allows digital data to be transmitted at a high speed over telephone lines — but without impacting phone service. It’s not as fast as more recent technologies like fiber-optic, and 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 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, say, you have an active YouTube channel that you’re uploading to regularly.

Who Uses DSL Internet?

DSL is a good choice for anyone who is a casual web user. 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 ISPs (internet service providers) charge less for DSL than they do for fiber-optic 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.

Despite its limitations, DSL is popular in the U.S. According to Pew Research Center findings, 73% of American adults have high-speed broadband access. Of those, a little more than 20% have DSL connections.

Overview of DSL Internet Providers

AT&TVerizonCenturyLinkFrontierWindstream
Starting Price$49.99*$39.99$49.00$29.99$19.99
Max Speeds6 Mpbs15 Mbps15 Mbps6 Mbps200 Mbps
Data Limits150 GBNone1 TBNoneNone
Contract LengthNone1 YearNone1 YearNone

*Price is for fiber optic service. DSL is only provided by AT&T when fiber is unavailable.

What are the 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 $49.99 /mo for 12 months

Plans Include

  • Up to 1,000 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 $29.99 /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

Windstream

Windstream 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 Western U.S.
  • ACSI rating: 57

Learn more about Windstream

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-optics

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.

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, “is DSL internet in my area?” 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.