Fiber Internet vs DSL

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DecisionData Team
April 17, 2020

Internet usage has become an integral part of our daily lives. You might use the internet to shop, research, watch videos, take classes, manage finances or even run a business from home. 

You can get connected through fiber internet, which uses fiber-optic cables to offer some of the fastest speeds currently available, or through DSL service, which uses telephone lines to offer a reliable connection at lower monthly costs.

Choosing the right internet service that meets your needs is an important decision, so read on to understand some of the main differences between fiber vs. DSL.

To begin your comparison, review the basics of fiber vs. DSL below.

Internet TypeSpeedStarting PriceBest ForAvailability
DSLUp to 115 Mbps$27/mo.Low pricesCheck Availability
FiberUp to 1,000 Mbps$29.99/mo.Fast speeds, heavy internet usersCheck Availability

What is DSL internet? 

DSL stands for digital subscriber line. This type of internet service gets its name because it uses regular telephone lines to transmit data across the internet. This connection is faster and more advanced than traditional dial-up internet, offering average speeds of 10 Mbps to 20 Mbps, with some providers able to offer up to 100 Mbps. 

Since DSL uses frequencies that are different from those in landline phone service, users can have both traditional phone service and DSL service and use both simultaneously.

DSL service is also a dedicated internet connection, meaning all subscribers have separate connections, so there is no slow down of service during peak traffic times. Since DSL is offered through existing telephone lines, users will need:

  • A standard phone line
  • A DSL modem and router (or modem / router combo)
  • A line filter to access the internet

 Many DSL providers will supply the necessary equipment for a monthly fee.

Top DSL providers

ProviderSpeedStarting Price Availability
Up to 100 Mbps$39.99/mo.Check Availability
Up to 100 Mbps$49/mo.Check Availability
Up to 115 Mbps$27.99/mo.Check Availability

DSL internet speeds

Average speed range: 6 Mbps to 100 Mbps

These speeds are best for: Internet browsing, streaming video and music, shopping online and playing online games.

DSL service providers typically offer speeds between 6 Mbps and 100 Mbps, although the fastest advertised speeds may not be available in all areas. Since DSL connections run over traditional telephone lines, DSL speeds are limited based on their distance from the closest main dispatch office. 

Speeds on the lower end of this range, from 6-10 Mbps, are suitable for internet browsing, while faster speeds of 25 Mbps and above allow users to stream video or music, play online games and shop online.

DSL pricing

Pricing for DSL internet service is based on geographic location, maximum speeds and bundled services. Standard pricing for Frontier’s slowest speeds (up to 6 Mbps) starts at $27.99 per month, while the company’s fastest speed packages (up to 115 Mbps) start at $44.99 per month. 

Prices will vary by provider, as some providers charge monthly equipment fees or require extended service agreements to qualify for lower monthly pricing. DSL subscribers can also receive discounts for bundling internet service with other offerings, such as TV or phone services. 

Who is DSL good for?

For internet users who want a reliable internet connection at an affordable price, DSL service is a solid option. Since it runs on telephone lines, DSL service is available in some areas that high-speed cable or fiber services are not. 

For light internet browsing, any DSL package is suitable. But households that do more streaming or online gaming should go for 100 Mbps packages for a more seamless internet experience.

Pros and cons of DSL internet

Pros

  • More widely available than fiber options
  • Cheaper than many high-speed broadband plans
  • Dedicated lines avoid slowdowns during heavy traffic times
  • More consistent connection than satellite services

Cons

  • Slower speeds than most cable and fiber services
  • Limited data from some providers
  • Monthly equipment charges and maintenance fees can add to the service costs
  • Cheaper packages may not be suitable for heavy internet users

What is fiber internet? 

Fiber internet works by sending data signals over fiber-optic cables, which provide a faster connection than copper cables or telephone lines. Fiber-optic lines can transfer information using light instead of electricity, so this type of internet connection is currently one of the fastest available on the market.

Fiber-optic cables are also more conducive to sending signals over long distances and more resistant to interference or normal wear and tear. Like most other internet services, fiber internet service requires a modem and router to access the internet.

Top Fiber internet providers

ProviderSpeedStarting PriceAvailability
Up to 940$39.99/mo.Check Availability
Up to 1,000 Mbps$29.99/mo.Check Availability
Up to 940$39.99mo.Check Availability

* Prices as of 04/13/2020

Fiber internet speeds

Average speed range: 100 Mbps and 1,000 Mbps

These speeds are best for: Heavy streaming, online gaming and multiple users. 

Fiber internet service providers typically offer speeds between 100 Mbps and 1,000 Mbps, although the fastest advertised speeds may not be available in all areas. Furthermore, since fiber internet requires fiber-optic cables that aren’t available in all areas, this service is only available in about 37% of the United States

For users who live in areas where fiber internet is available, the speeds are conducive to having multiple users online simultaneously, heavy streaming and online gaming, and even operating a business from home. However, for smaller households where heavy internet usage isn’t the norm, a fiber connection provides much more speed than would ever be needed.

Fiber internet pricing

Pricing for fiber internet service is based on geographic location, maximum speeds and bundled services. Standard pricing for Verizon’s slowest speeds (up to 200 Mbps) starts at $39.99 per month, while the company’s fastest speed packages (up to 940 Mbps) start at $79.99 per month.

Prices will vary by provider, as some charge monthly equipment fees or require extended service agreements to qualify for lower monthly pricing. Fiber internet subscribers can also get discounts for bundling internet service with other offerings, such as TV or phone services.

Pros and cons of fiber internet

Pros

  • Fastest internet speeds of all connection types
  • Consistent bandwidth to handle multiple users online and heavy streaming or gaming
  • Price per Mbps is lower than DSL
  • Most plans include unlimited data packages

Cons

  • More expensive than DSL monthly
  • Very limited availability; currently only accessible in major metropolitan markets
  • Plans may be financially wasteful as speeds are excessive / unnecessary for light-medium use
  • Equipment charges and maintenance fees can add to monthly costs

FAQs about Fiber and DSL


Is fiber internet or DSL internet faster?


Fiber internet is generally faster than DSL, though speed and availability will vary by location.


What is the difference between fiber and DSL internet?


Fiber internet runs on fiber-optic cables, while DSL runs over traditional telephone lines. Fiber is generally faster, though it is not nearly as widely available as DSL or other internet service options.


Which is better for people living in remote areas?


DSL will be the better option for users in remote areas, due to increased availability. Fiber internet is generally available only in major metropolitan areas with the infrastructure to support fiber-optic cables.


Is DSL or fiber better for gaming?


With faster download and upload speeds, unlimited data usage and a more consistent connection, fiber internet is a better choice for online gaming.

The bottom line

Fiber internet vs. DSL: Both are viable choices for internet service. Which service is best for you depends on your geographic location, internet needs and budget. While fiber internet provides faster speeds, DSL is generally cheaper and more widely available. 

To choose the most cost-effective internet option for your family, evaluate the pros and cons of each service to choose the one that best meets the needs of your household.