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One of the oldest internet technologies, which followed the now almost obsolete dial-up, DSL is still relevant for a great mass of internet users in the US—primarily because of its nationwide availability. Albeit the urban and suburban consumer relies more so on preconceived notions regarding the service type, and remains skeptical about its output, the truth is DSL presents a viable option for a multitude of internet users in urban, suburban and rural America.

So while looking for a new internet service provider, if DSL plans look practical to you but your limited knowledge of this internet connection type makes you reluctant about taking a pick, here is what you need to know about DSL broadband.  DSL Internet: What is It?

During the 1990s when the World Wide Web set off to become a phenomenon to be reckoned with, most telephone companies in the US delivered dial-up internet—which was slow and also tied up your home phone line. As the increased demand for internet access coincided with developments in the field of technological research, and the cost of equipment required for deployment of DSL was no longer as prohibitive—DSL was launched in the public domain.

Short for Digital Subscriber Line, DSL is one of the most widely available internet connection types in the US, which boasts an estimated 90% nationwide coverage?mainly because it utilizes the existing standard twisted copper phone line network. What made DSL special for internet users in the initial years was the faster download speeds and the fact it did not hold up the phone line, albeit delivered via a wired telephone service. Today, many variants of DSL technology are in use, which make it possible to deliver significantly faster speeds over a hybrid network of fiber and copper facilities?making DSL a great option for light-weight internet consumers and those who are outside the confines of other wired internet networks.  

DSL Internet: How Does it Work?

As we said, DSL utilizes copper phone lines to deliver an internet service. Phone lines have the capacity to carry much more than just the voice signal, so the DSL system is able to use three separate frequency bands so to speak?the lowest facilitates voice connectivity, while the other 2 are utilized for downloading and uploading data. Electromagnetic signals thus carry data through the phone line from the backhaul connection to the subscriber’s end. And, twisted copper wires make it possible to minimize electromagnetic interference from outside factors. While your phone line is never occupied!

The equipment involved in delivery of a DSL connection includes only 2 pieces at the subscriber’s end: A DSL filter which plugs into the phone jack and keeps the low-frequency voice signal separate from the high-frequency broadband signal. And a DSL modem which converts the electromagnetic signal into a digital one for your router and computer.

In recent times development of new technologies has allowed unique modifications to how DSL internet has been traditionally delivered. That is why it is no longer limited to speeds as slow as typically experienced. Rather residential consumers can benefit from high-speed DSL over 100 Mbps fast.  

Common Types of DSL Technology

While there are over 10 types of DSL internet, the most commonly encountered are SDSL, ADSL and VDSL. 

Symmetrical DSL (SDSL)

With symmetrical DSL connections, you get equal upload and download speeds. Mostly, it is the business-class DSL services that are symmetrical because the corporate sector has a higher demand for uploading huge amounts of data relative to the residential user.  

Asymmetrical DSL (ADSL)

An asymmetrical DSL connection offers a lower upstream speed relative to the downstream. It is a more popular type of DSL internet among residential consumers since they typically conduct more downloading than uploading.

ADSL has its sub-variants which include ADSL2 and ADSL2 that are able to provide higher speeds to subscribers located in close range of the provider’s hub. ADSL2 is the preferred mode of data transmission over longer distances, while ADSL2 is employed for delivery of service over shorter distances. Both can deliver up to 3 times faster speeds than ADSL at their best.

Very High-bit rate DSL (VDSL)

VDSL comes in two types, VDSL & VDSL2. This sub-type of DSL is more advanced and able to utilize higher frequency bands. While theoretical speeds maybe as high as 300 Mbps, depending on the distance between the provider’s hub and the subscriber’s location, this can lower drastically. Still a VDSL2 connection can typically yield up to 100 Mbps download speed.

What is a Good DSL Speed?

The maximum speed you can get from a DSL provider depends on its network capacity in your region, and your distance from the provider’s hub. For instance while AT&T high-speed DSL connections max out at 100 Mbps in most urban and suburban neighborhoods, in other regions the speed is anywhere between 768 Kbps and 75 Mbps. The farther a community is from an AT&T hub in the region, the slower would be the speed delivered.

Any DSL speed is good, if it does the job.

For instance a 25 Mbps AT&T Internet plan can work for you, if your household is not big on internet consumption, and utilizes it for the essentials only. If however your family uses the internet for remote work, virtual learning, streaming HD and gaming, you’ll need at least a 100 Mbps connection to keep everyone happy.

Is DSL Expensive?

While DSL is still a very reliable type of internet service, and has remained fairly inexpensive so far, the hard truth is as time passes by the per Megabit cost is anticipated to rise relative to other types such as  Fiber. Because keeping up with consumer demand requires providers to continuously invest in upgrading to newer technologies, equipment and electronics. Which makes deliver of DSL more expensive compared to the cost incurred on other broadband types in the market such as Fiber Optic.

As for now, DSL is still reasonably priced and delivers speeds fast enough for basic streaming and downloading in urban and suburban neighborhoods. But at the same time, DSL plans have indeed become more expensive than before, even pricier than a fiber optic connection if the cost per Megabit is taken into account.

For instance AT&T delivers a DSL based connection with speed ranging from 768 Kbps to 100 Mbps for $45/mo. and CenturyLink charges $49/mo. for 15-100 Mbps plans. While 1 Gig internet from AT&T is priced at $60/mo. and CenturyLink Fiber Gigabit costs $65 per month.

The Best DSL Internet Providers

Here are some of the top DSL providers in the United States to look for:

  • AT&T: Widely available in 21 service states topped with some of the best bundle deals in the market.
  • CenturyLink: Available in 50 states. Reputed for consistency in pricing.
  • Windstream: Available in 50 states. Low-priced unlimited data plans for rural residents.
  • EarthLink: Available in 26 states. A variety of speed tiers is on offer.
  • Frontier Communications: Available in 26 states. A perfect option for anyone who hates hidden fees.

Pros & Cons of DSL Internet

Pros

  • DSL delivers faster speeds than dialup connection, and for a fair price. The rates of DSL internet are lower than satellite internet and so far quite competitive with entry-level cable broadband, and in some markets even with entry-level fiber internet plans.
  • As DSL provides a dedicated circuit to all subscribers, you do not share your connection with others in the neighborhood. Meaning you can freely use the internet without worrying about it slowing down during the peak usage period.
  • It is one of the most widely available internet types in the US, covering rural America as well as the urban and suburban regions.

Cons

  • The performance of your DSL connection depends on the distance between you and your internet provider’s hub. The farther you are, the slower your internet connection becomes.
  • With access to fiber optic internet becoming more common in residential neighborhoods, and the cost of the upkeep of DSL networks on the rise, the per Megabit cost of DSL internet is becoming a factor to consider.

Final Words

Sure, DSL is not blazing fast like cable or fiber, but it is available almost everywhere in the United States which is one big advantage relative to competitor service types. And for this reason in rural regions DSL makes for a cheaper yet reliable wired option because the only other choice is the pricey satellite internet. 

Now that you understand DSL internet better, you can ZIP search options available in your area here and compare to see if a DSL internet connection would do the job for you. And if you are still confused, get in touch with professionals at 1-855-349-9328 to check offer availability and for pro advice.

FAQs

Is DSL internet right for you?

DSL is one of the best internet choices for households with 3 or fewer internet users who use the internet mainly for browsing the web, streaming videos, listening to music, shopping online etc.

Is DSL faster than dialup?

Yes, a dial-up internet delivers up to 56 Kbps speed only, while a DSL network can get you 10 to 25 Mbps. High-speed DSL connections can even exceed 100 Mbps depending on network capability and your distance from the provider’s hub.

Is DSL faster than cable?

Average DSL download speed usually peaks at around 35 Mbps while cable broadband speeds can easily reach up to 500 Mbps. If usage of internet is heavy, cable broadband is a more reliable and faster option.

Can I increase my DSL speed?

A simple trick such as changing the position of your modem and selecting a jack close to the spot where the phone line enters your home can help reduce the distance the signal travels before reaching your modem. In turn this is likely to marginally improve the performance of your DSL internet connection.