DSL vs. Cable: What’s the Difference and Which One Is Better?

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DSL vs. Cable: What’s the Difference and Which One Is Better?

In today’s world, internet connectivity is essential to daily life. DSL and cable internet are the most popular options for residential internet services. While the two serve the same function, numerous differences set them apart. For instance, Digital Subscriber Line or DSL is a modulation scheme that provides high-speed internet through existing two-wire copper telephone lines. It does this without holding up any of the phone lines. In contrast, cable internet is a broadband connection transmitted through local TV cables connected to a modem. This article will compare DSL and cable internet and highlight their key differences. We will also give our opinion on which of the two is ideal for your needs. Read on to learn more about DSL vs. cable internet.

DSL vs. Cable Internet: Side-By-Side Comparison

DSL InternetCable Internet
Price and valueIt is mainly affordable. On average, DSL Internet plans can range from $20 to $80 per monthIt offers expensive plans. Cable Internet plans can range from $40 to $100 per month.
AvailabilityIt is significantly available due to its use of phone lines.Available in urban and suburban areas
Internet SpeedIts top speed is around 100Mbps. It has a constant non-shared speedIt can reach speeds of 1000Mbps. It has shared speeds that vary depending on the number of users on the network.
SecurityIt needs security software from the ISPIt requires a security software
ReliabilityIts reliability depends on the proximity to a distribution pointIts plans with faster speeds provide better reliability 

DSL vs. Cable Internet: Overview

As noted above, DSL is an abbreviation that stands for Digital Subscriber Line. It uses an advanced modulation scheme to transmit internet data through a pair of copper wires for mobile phone networks. Sometimes experts refer to DSL as the last-mile technology since it connects telephone switching stations to households and offices. The main DSL categories available for home subscribers are DSL and ADSL.

Cable internet, on the other hand, is a broadband connection transmitted through local TV cables connected to a modem. Since the coaxial cables used for TV provide greater bandwidth, cable internet can achieve much faster internet speeds than DSL. This factor, and the reality that most households already have cable TV, makes cable internet the preferred option.

Roku on tv streaming with remote
If you are streaming or gaming, cable internet will provide you with the faster speeds you require.

©renata colella/Shutterstock.com

DSL vs. Cable Internet: What Are the Differences?

Price and Value

DSL and cable internet offer different values and pricing points. Typically, DSL is much more affordable than its counterpart, making it ideal for people on a budget. Therefore, it allows you to save while accessing solid internet speeds for primary uses such as web browsing, light streaming, and emailing. 

Cable internet also has affordable options that match DSL. However, these options also offer much faster speeds that are more reliable than DSL plans. Therefore, if you are looking for affordable internet options with faster speeds of up to 100mbps, cable internet is the way to go.


If you live in suburban and urban areas in the US, your internet is likely cable internet. Cable internet is hugely available in these areas because it runs on existing cable TV lines. Therefore, with numerous coaxial TV cable lines available in these areas, installing cable internet rather than DSL is significantly easier. 

In contrast, Digital Subscriber Line provides internet connection via landline phone lines, making it the most common internet type. Although it is the most common, it is not the most popular due to its speed limitations.

Internet Speeds

Cable transmission provides much higher internet speeds compared to DSL. These speeds allow you to stream and download large amounts of data without any challenges. Typically cable internet connection can deliver maximum rates as high as 1.5Gbps. 

Such speeds are more than most households need. Therefore, the ideal plans range between 100-300Mbps. These plans provide a unique combination of speed and affordability, making them suitable for most homes and online gaming.

In contrast, DSL has maximum speeds of between 75-100Mbps. While these speeds are okay for simple tasks such as web browsing and light streaming, they can’t handle more complex tasks. You can get cheap DSL plans for basic household uses with speeds starting as low as 6Mbps. Cable internet also offers faster upload speeds than DSL. However, both options provide upload speeds of at most 30Mbps. 


While cable internet offers much faster speeds, its reliability is the factor that sets it apart from its counterpart. Both internet connections can experience slowed connectivity, but cable internet is more manageable than DSL. That means cable internet connections are much more reliable.

One of the main issues that often slows down cable internet is online traffic within the neighborhood. Therefore, peak usage times, typically between 5 and 10 pm, often include slower internet speeds. One of the ways to solve this issue is to get internet packages with higher rates so that it remains reliable even during peak use hours. Other measures include:

  • Scheduling large downloads for early morning or overnight
  • Regulating the number of devices connected to your network
  • Using ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi
  • Installing additional Wi-Fi extenders to your network

On the other hand, DSL reliability issues are not as manageable. Often these issues result from the extended distance between your home and the internet hub. The further the phone lines travel with DSL internet to your home, the more unreliable the internet connection. This unreliability makes DSL internet a risky option, especially if you are unsure where your connection originates.

ethernet and network cables LAN network internet cables network switch
One way to ensure your cable internet does suffer slowdowns is to use an ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi.


DSL vs. Cable Internet: 6 Must-Know Facts

  • DSL is a modulation scheme, while cable internet is a broadband connection.
  • DSL provides high-speed internet through existing two-wire copper telephone lines, while cable internet transmits through local TV cables connected to a modem.
  • While DSL internet plans are more affordable, cable internet has relatively inexpensive plans with faster speeds.
  • DSL internet is the most available option, but cable internet is standard in urban and suburban areas.
  • Cable internet providers have faster internet speeds than DSL.
  • Cable internet is more reliable than DSL.

DSL vs. Cable Internet: Which One Is Better?

For Basic Internet Use

If you are looking for internet options for simple home internet use, DSL is ideal. Its speeds are enough to perform simple tasks like web browsing, light streaming, and emailing. Furthermore, its plans are much more affordable for most households. Since DSL uses phone lines for internet transmission, it is widely available even in sparsely populated areas.  

For Elaborate Internet Use

Cable internet is ideal if you intend to use your internet for tasks other than web browsing, light streaming, and emailing. It provides faster browsing and faster download and upload speeds, allowing more elaborate utilization. Cable internet speeds can go as high as 1.5Gbps, while upload speeds go up to 30Mbps.

For a Tight Budget

A more affordable option is the best if you are working on a tight budget. DSL internet is ideal in this regard since it provides cost-friendly plans. However, cable internet is the perfect option for less affordable plans offering higher internet speeds.


Overall, cable internet comes out significantly ahead of DSL. It provides higher speeds, reliability, and value. Therefore, it is ideal for users who want a comprehensive internet option.

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DSL vs. Cable: What’s the Difference and Which One Is Better? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is DSL?

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is a type of internet connection that uses existing telephone lines to transmit data. It operates on a different frequency than voice calls, allowing both internet and telephone services to work simultaneously.

What is cable internet?

Cable internet is a type of high-speed internet connection that uses coaxial cables to transmit data. It operates on the same infrastructure that provides cable television services. Cable internet offers faster speeds compared to traditional dial-up or DSL connections, making it suitable for activities such as streaming, online gaming, video conferencing, and large file downloads. The coaxial cables used for cable internet are capable of transmitting large amounts of data, allowing for faster and more reliable internet access. Cable internet is typically provided by cable service providers and is available in many urban and suburban areas.

Which one is better, DSL or cable?

The answer depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Cable internet generally provides faster speeds, making it suitable for bandwidth-intensive activities like streaming, online gaming, and downloading large files. DSL may be more widely available in rural or remote areas where cable infrastructure is limited.

Are there any limitations to DSL or cable internet?

DSL speeds can be influenced by the distance between your location and the telephone exchange, resulting in slower speeds for those farther away. Cable internet speeds can be affected by network congestion, where the shared bandwidth among users in your area may impact performance during peak usage times.

Can I switch between DSL and cable internet?

In most cases, you can switch between DSL and cable internet providers if both services are available in your area. However, it may require a new installation or setup process with the new provider.

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