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“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you are not part of the steamroller, you are part of the road.”
Stewart Brand.

Entering the world of internet to pick a connection type feels quite like a kid entering a candy store. Everything feels tempting and picking one seems impossible. Technology is in a state of consistent and rapid growth. Development after development has turned people who previously considered themselves rather tech-savvy into confused and somewhat unaware individuals themselves. If you are in the same boat and having difficulty in picking the right type of internet connection, you have come to the right place. This article intends to provide an analysis of different types of internet services and broadband services providers.

 

What is Broadband?

Broadband is a wide term used to refer to all types of internet connections including DSL, Fiber, Cable, and Satellite—however, according to the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) these connections must meet a specified benchmark of download and upload speeds, in order to qualify as broadband internet.

With advancements in internet technology, the FCC has periodically updated the speed criterion for broadband internet—for instance in 1996 internet that delivered speeds as fast as 200/200 Kbps was considered a broadband connection; in 2010 this was changed to 4/1 Mbps; while in 2015 the broadband speed standard was put higher and now stands at 25/3 Mbps.

Even though most terms mentioned above are quite commonly used and most people are aware of their generic meaning, understanding differences between them, and picking the right type of service for yourself can be tricky. In order to make a decision that is informed and viable, it is necessary that you understand the different types of broadband services before you opt for one.

 

What is DSL Internet?

The digital subscriber line is a type of internet service that uses telephone wires to transfer data.  These copper wires are capable of handling more bandwidth than required for voice—so it is possible to transfer data at a frequency higher than what is needed for the voice signal to travel. And that is why your phone and internet can work together when you have a DSL connection—quite unlike dial-up, which is now nearly obsolete.

For years DSL remained an extremely popular internet connection type, but that state of affairs lasted only until faster options like Cable and Fiber broadband were introduced.

 

DSL Internet: What Speeds are Available?

DSL internet speed is usually in the range of 0.5-75 Mbps. However more recently many service providers such as AT&T, CenturyLink, Windstream, and Frontier Communications have strengthened the fiber optic backbone in their network and are using copper phone lines for data transfer over a much shorter distance. This has enabled them to provide high-speed DSL internet as fast as 100 Mbps—albeit in rural America, where the influence of Fiber in the Loop is not that great, the speed of DSL connections is considerably lower.

Most DSL connections are asymmetric (ADSL) which means the download and upload speed is different—with the download speed being much higher. So where the download speed is as high as 35 Mbps you may just get up to 10 Mbps upload speed.

The one great benefit you get from a DSL internet connection is that data transfer occurs over a dedicated line, and your neighbor does not get to eat on your bandwidth.

DSL Internet: Network Coverage & Availability:

Since DSL uses telephone lines to transfer data, it is easily accessible in all parts of the U.S., be it urban centers, suburban towns or remote rural areas. However the extent of DSL coverage varies from place to place—here are some of the top states with the most encompassing DSL coverage.

 

State

Network Coverage

Utah

95.9%

Connecticut

95.8%

Colorado

93.6%

Illinois

93.6%

Arizona

90%

DSL Internet: Plans & Packages:

Many telecom companies of nationwide repute such as AT&T, CenturyLink , Frontier Communications, and Windstream offer a DSL internet service. And as we mentioned earlier, each of these broadband service providers is engaged in provision of high-speed DSL internet in urban and most suburban regions in their footprint—although in rural America they tend to offer  the slower traditional version of DSL.

All these service providers bring a variety of packages to the table—with different speeds, data limits and prices. As much as a wider variety allows you to choose according to your requirement, it often makes the process of selection rather overwhelming. Keeping this in mind, we have shortlisted some of the most popular plans and packages available from renowned DSL internet providers in the U.S.

AT&T Internet

 

CenturyLink Internet

Windstream Internet

Frontier Internet

  • Speeds from 0.8-100 Mbps
  • 1TB to Unlimited data depending on the plan
  •  $35-45 per month.
  • Speeds from 15-100 Mbps
  • 1 TB data
  •  $49/mo.
  • Speeds from 50-100 Mbps
  • No data caps
  • Starting price $27/mo.
  • Speeds from 6-115 Mbps
  • Unlimited Data
  • Starting price $27.99/mo.

Note: Price and speed may vary with location. Prices shown here are introductory and may be subject to change after the promo period ends.

 

DSL Internet: Is it the Perfect Fit for You?

High-speed DSL internet is suitable for residential use, as well as for small businesses. If you are a household that is not extravagant in terms of online activities routinely conducted, and if your day to day business operations do not rely too heavily on the internet—you can get things done with ease via a high-speed DSL connection. The lower speed tiers in the range are perfect for basic browsing, checking emails, surfing the social media etc. while the higher speed tiers also allow you to stream video and connect more than one device to the network. So if you know what your usage pattern is like and how many devices need to connect, you can pick the right option from any of the above mentioned broadband internet providers.

Pros

Cons

A wired Copper network for phone lines is already in place, so network ready access is widely available. And, you get a dedicated line meaning no loss of bandwidth to others in the area.

Available speeds are lower compared to Cable and Fiber broadband – hence you cannot run bandwidth hungry activities or connect too many devices to the network at one time.

 

DSL is more affordable compared to other broadband types although you may see some providers offer high-speed DSL plans at prices similar to cable broadband

 

Upload power is much lower than the download power that can be an issue for serious online gamers

 

Cable Internet: What is Cable Internet?

Cable Internet is quite similar to DSL in that it too transfers data via a wired network, but instead of using twisted copper phone lines, cable broadband is delivered over coaxial cable lines that were previously only used to furnish cable TV connections. The fact these cables can carry more  bandwidth implies you can get data transfer speeds much higher than DSL.

Many renowned cable providers in the U.S. like Spectrum, Mediacom, Cox Communications, Xfinity, Grande Communications, Wave, WOW!, and RCN are now using fiber optic lines for data transfer over longer distances. And, it is only in the “last mile” that data hops over coaxial cable lines before reaching the subscriber’s location—an innovation that would not have been possible without the latest networking protocols such as DOCSIS 3.0 & 3.1.

With Fiber in the Loop, these cable providers are able to yield a more reliable performing internet to the consumer—making this type of a connection all the more popular. 

 

Cable Internet: What Speeds Are Available?

The download speed range offered by cable broadband is nowadays 10-500 Mbps, while the upload speed is between 5 Mbps & 50 Mbps. Cable broadband connections with Fiber in the Loop can deliver download speeds comparable to fiber optic internet however, you will not get upload speeds as high as with Fiber. So, where download speed as high as 1Gbps is available, upload power of cable broadband does not go beyond 50 Mbps.

You must also know, unlike DSL the line is not dedicated to you alone—rather cable providers share bandwidth among users in a given neighborhood. This results in slower internet—and speeds vary depending on how many other people in the area are connected to the same network at any given time.

 

Cable Internet: Network Coverage & Availability:

Cable internet is widely accessible in the U.S. since it uses the wired network of coaxial lines, which was previously only utilized to deliver cable TV connections. In most urban and suburban parts of the U.S., you can find cable broadband internet providers that will give you a connection boosted by Fiber in the Loop. However, in some areas where the network has not been yet upgraded, you will tend to get slower speeds. With that said, cable internet coverage is widespread, making it one of the most readily available options in any locality. Here are some of the top states in terms of cable coverage.

State

Network Coverage

Connecticut

99.1%

District of Columbia

98.9%

New Jersey

98.9%

New York

98.1%

Massachusetts

97.6%

 

Cable Internet: Plans & Packages:

Service providers including, Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox Communications, Mediacom, WOW!, Wave, Grande Communications and RCN offer a variety of cable internet plans and packages in their respective markets across the U.S. As we said before, most of them have upgraded their networks and can now deliver download speeds comparable to Fiber. Each one of these broadband internet providers offers a variety of speed tiers—some give you unlimited data while others cap the data allowance. Here take a look at some key features of cable broadband service features delivered by some of the top providers:

Spectrum

Mediacom

Cox

Grande

WOW!

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Price and speed may vary with location. Prices shown here are introductory and may be subject to change after the promo period ends.

 

Cable Internet: Is it the Perfect Fit for You?  

If your household or business needs are on the extensive end of the spectrum with multiple devices connected to the same network, and internet usage pattern involves bandwidth heavy activities, cable broadband may be the right choice for you. As you can see above, there is a wide range of speeds on offer to suit varied sets of requirements. If you are well aware of how many users will connect to the network and whether there are streamers and gamers among them who would need higher speeds and more data, you’ll be able to pick the right provider and the right plan for yourself.

Pros

Cons

A wired coaxial network for cable TV is already in place, so network ready access is widely available.  

Connection bandwidth is shared meaning you can not bet on reliability at peak times.

 

Most providers are able to provide speeds comparable to fiber broadband but do not charge you nearly as much as a 100% fiber optic connection.

 

Upload power is much lower than the download power, even though it is significantly higher than DSL.

 

 

Fiber Optic Internet: What is Fiber Optic Internet?

Fiber optic internet is a recent revolution in the world of broadband connections. While most of us were replacing DSL with Cable for higher speeds, fiber internet entirely changed the game. Fiber optic cables are made of flexible fibers, glass or plastic, depending on whether data transmission has to occur over a long or short distance. Data is transmitted using light pulses at very high speed. Not only is data transfer extremely fast, but these fibers can carry multiple signals at once, which means huge amounts of data can move through them.

 

Fiber Optic Internet: What Speeds Are Available?

Considering we are talking about fiber optic broadband, speed is not an issue. Fiber optic internet brings you top speeds and the most bandwidth. You can easily stream, download, upload, transfer huge files all at once and it won’t slow down. You can connect a number of devices and conduct bandwidth heavy activities, and your internet will perform optimally. The top speed for a FTTH (Fiber to the Home) connection can be as high as 1000 Mbps—fiber optic internet connections are almost always symmetrical in that they provide you equal download and upload speeds. Usually fiber broadband speeds fall in the range of 250-1000 Mbps, however you can get lower speed tiers too, such as a 50/50 Mbps fast connection.

 

Fiber Optic Internet: Network Coverage & Availability:

Even though fiber internet has gained great popularity for its reliable high speed and the demand is quite high both in residential and commercial arenas, availability remains rather scanty—with various ISPs providing 100% fiber optic connections only in select parts of their service states.  Networks are still in the process of being extended to the point where fiber optic lines will reach the subscribers location and data will not have to hop over to copper or coaxial lines in the “last mile”. Here are some of the top states in terms of Fiber Optic coverage.

State

Network Coverage

Rhode Island

84.2%

District of Columbia

74.8%

Utah

70.8%

New Jersey

68.3%

New York

63.6%

 

Fiber Optic Internet: Plans & Packages:

As mentioned earlier on, fiber internet is a recent development, and services are not easily accessible—besides being rather pricey. However AT&T Fiber, CenturyLink Fiber, FiOS ® & Vantage ™ Fiber by Frontier Communications, and Windstream Kinetic do offer more affordable packages. You get unlimited data with these pure fiber optic connections and a good range of speed too—and there is no room for you to worry about lack of bandwidth. That is one reason why fiber broadband is ideal for commercial scale usage.

Fiber by Frontier Communications

AT&T Fiber

Windstream Kinetic

CenturyLink Fiber

Note: Price and speed may vary with location. Prices shown here are introductory and may be subject to change after the promo period ends.

Fiber Optic Internet: Is it the Perfect Fit for You?

Fiber internet can be the best fit for you if there are multiple users who indulge in bandwidth heavy activities such as HD streaming, online competitive gaming etc. With that said if a lower speed tier is available and you can afford it, it will make for a great reliable connection that gives you symmetrical speeds and an amazing bandwidth without you having to break the bank. And as mentioned before, if you are a business, fiber broadband can give you a reliable connection to do all that needs to be done, no matter how many devices and users are connected.

Pros

Cons

The FTTH connection brings you truly blazing fast speeds—the fastest on the market—and symmetrical.

Its expensive compared to other connection types.

 

A reliable connection even at peak times—seamless performance and great bandwidth.

 

Availability is scarce, only in select parts of a service state that are within the reach of a provider’s fiber optic network.

Satellite Internet: What is Satellite Internet?

Satellite internet is the type of broadband wherein data transfer occurs wirelessly between you  and the provider. The signal travels from your end via a satellite dish installed at your premises to the orbiting satellite in the space, and from there to the operation center of the provider on earth, before it moves along a wired landline network and connects you to the internet. The loop is complete when the signal travels back via the same route and reaches your connected device(s). 

This type of a connection is more commonly used in remote and rural areas where no other viable internet connection type is available. Usually, in such regions the only other options include dialup internet and traditional DSL, which are considerably slower. Satellite internet may be more pricey, but it does get you higher speeds.

 

Satellite Internet: What Speeds Are Available?

The commonly observed download speed range of satellite internet is 5- 25 Mbps, however some satellite internet providers do push the limit as high as 100 Mbps. Upload speeds usually go as high as 3 Mbps. Even though the speed of satellite internet is quite moderate, latency is a factor to consider. Latency is quite naturally higher in this type of a broadband connection because of the distance the signal has to travel before you find yourself connected to the internet. However, the likes of HughesNet have certainly managed to reduce latency with the introduction of cutting-edge technology upon which HughesNet Gen5 satellite internet service is based.

 

Satellite Internet: Network Coverage & Availability:

Satellite internet is by default very widely available. For instance in the U.S. you can access HughesNet satellite internet anywhere you can view the clear southern sky. However, due to the costly infrastructure and the tech involved, not many providers venture into this type of internet service.

 

Satellite Internet: Plans & Packages:

HughesNet is considered the top satellite internet provider in the U.S. And is often the only option for the residents of rural and remote regions. The service gives you a variety of plans but these are not based on speed variations. Because, HughesNet gives you 25/3 Mbps download/upload speed with all plans. It is the data allowance you get with each plan that distinguishes them from one another.

HughesNet 10 GB Plan

HughesNet 20 GB Plan

HughesNet 30 GB Plan

HughesNet 50 GB Plan

Satellite Internet: Is it the Perfect Fit for You?

We’d recommend you opt for satellite internet if you do not have a less costly wired service available at your address. If you do have a wired network offering comparable speeds, it may be much more cost effective to go with that instead. But, if you only have a dialup or slow DSL internet available at your address, we would say go for HughesNet Gen5 without second guessing.   

Pros

Cons

Given it is satellite internet, it covers wide regions and is available in the U.S. from coast to coast.

Satellite internet is expensive compared to all other connection types.

 

A less cluttered set up.

Slower speeds and higher latency levels.

DSL vs Cable vs Fiber vs Satellite Internet

Now that you are clear about each internet type, and have read through an in-depth analysis of each, its time to compare them. When it comes to comparing internet services you cannot simply rely on one factor. Rather you need to analyze a number of factors to truly understand which internet type would work the best from your viewpoint.  

Speed:

  • Fiber—The fastest speeds
  • Cable—Second-best in speed
  • Satellite—Moderate speeds that can be bogged down by higher latency
  • DSL—Slow to moderate speeds depending on whether it is traditional or high-speed DSL

Affordability: 

  • DSL and cable are easily affordable compared to fiber and satellite
  • Considering fiber internet is a recent development, it is quite expensive and should only be opted for if one needs that kind of speed and bandwidth
  • Satellite internet is comparable or higher than fiber internet in terms of cost, while it offers much slower speeds. Satellite internet should only be invested in if there is no other viable option.

Reliability:

  • Fiber—Extremely reliable
  • DSL—Significantly reliable since you get a dedicated line
  • Cable—Generally reliable but at peak times it can yield inconsistent performance given the bandwidth is shared.
  • Satellite—Can be subject to harsh weather conditions

Availability:

  • Satellite—The most widespread availability no matter how remote the location
  • DSL—As widely available as a landline telephone connection over a Copper network
  • Cable—As widely available as the reach of coaxial cable TV networks
  • Fiber—Availability is restricted to select regions

 

Picking a Broadband Service Provider:

DSL, fiber, cable, satellite—different types of broadband connections, various providers, and a variety of plans and packages—all that makes picking an internet service real confusing to say the least. Amidst all this analyzing, customers often end up making a common mistake. That is, they pick the best service provider, the best type of internet connection, and the best package, but what they do not realize is what is best for others may not be the right option for them. It may not seem like it at first, but picking the right internet type is a personal decision and one can not base it entirely on generic factors.

Here are a few things you should take into consideration before making the final decision.

  1. Speed:

When selecting an internet service one always tries to get the one which delivers the highest speeds regardless of what other limitations that may come with. The right thing to do is to know how much speed you would require, and make the choice accordingly.  

Streaming HD

15 Mbps (based on 1 user)

Web Browsing and Social Media

Up to 10 Mbps

Gaming

4 Mbps (based on 1 user)

Working from Home

10 Mbps (based on 1 user)

  1. Packages:

Most of us think a good package is the one that offers the highest speed or flashes words like “unlimited data” whereas a good package is the one that meets your needs at an affordable price. Research suggests, customers often tend to pay extra unknowingly when purchasing an internet service. This is because they don’t check whether or not they need the amount of data they are paying for. More data does not always mean a better offer.

 

  1. Equipment:

When opting for a particular internet type make sure you check the equipment you will need to purchase or rent out. Find out how much it would cost. This includes modems, routers, and any kind of internal/external wiring etc.

 

  1. Customer Support:

No matter how much you research before selecting an internet service, you are bound to face minor problems at some point in time. Which is why it is extremely important the service you opt for comes with reliable customer support.

 

To Conclude:

Even though there are undeniable differences between the four different types of broadband internet, but when it comes down to making the final choice it all depends on your personal preferences. Therefore, go for the type of internet which you think is the best option for you considering your requirements, location, and budget—regardless of what others may think of it.

If you need further assistance with regards to availability or internet plans and prices, you can always call at 1-855-349-9328 for an expert advice.