DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line, which is an internet network that uses telephone lines to transmit digital data.
With a DSL internet connection, the internet service provider (ISP) uses telephone lines to carry the signals directly to the home where a DSL modem receives and converts the signals to internet service.
The most common type of residential DSL service is ADSL, or asymmetrical DSL. In this type of DSL internet service, the data transfer rate is greater in one direction, typically downloads. This means DSL internet plans are likely to feature higher download speeds than upload speeds.
Other common types of DSL service include SDSL, which have symmetrical upload and download rates, and VDSL, which has a “very high” data transfer rate.
What we like
- High availability – DSL is one of the most available types of internet service, covering about 87% of the U.S.
- Low cost – Since DSL uses existing telephone lines, costs are often lower than cable or fiber optic internet.
- Speed consistency – DSL internet is less likely to experience slowed speeds and lag during peak usage times.
- Easy installation – Your DSL modem plugs into a phone jack, making installation quick and easy.
Things to consider
- Low speeds – Phone lines do not support the higher bandwidth you’d get from cable or fiber, so DSL internet typically will not offer the fastest available speeds.
- Speed attrition – The farther away your home is from the ISP or an extender, the slower your speeds are likely to be.
- Fewer bundle options – DSL internet providers may not offer TV services in your area, meaning you may have to build a TV and internet bundle with two providers.
Top DSL internet providers by availability
|Providers||Starting price*||Max speed range||Data caps||Nationwide availability|
|$45.00/mo.||5 – 100 Mbps||1 TB/mo.||40%|
|$69.99/mo.||0.5 – 15 Mbps||None||17.8%|
|$49.00/mo.**||20 – 100 Mbps||1 TB/mo.||16%|
|$37.99/mo.||3 – 115 Mbps||None||11%|
|$37.00/mo.||25 – 232 Mbps||None||2.66%|
Is DSL internet right for you?
Many areas with access to a DSL internet connection also have the option of satellite, cable or possibly fiber optic internet as well. Each internet type varies in availability, pricing and speeds. Here is how each service type ranks.
Availability: Lower than satellite, higher than fiber, about the same as cable
While satellite internet is the most widely-available internet type, DSL internet is not far behind, with availability in around 87% of U.S. households. Like satellite internet, DSL is a great option for rural areas. Access to a telephone line is likely all you need to get DSL internet, which makes it a great option in areas where cable internet is not available or desired.
Pricing: Lower than most other internet types
Along with availability, low plan pricing is another potential benefit of DSL internet. Depending on where you live and which DSL providers are available, standalone internet service could start as low as $20/mo. This is lower than most cable providers, and significantly lower than satellite internet service.
Speeds: Lower than most other internet types
In many areas, DSL internet’s fastest speeds are comparable to the lowest speeds you could get with a cable or fiber-optic internet connection. The fastest DSL internet speeds available range from around 100 to 200 Mbps, which are good internet speeds, but availability is highly limited. More common DSL speeds are around 24 Mbps or lower. Plus, the farther you are from your DSL ISP, the slower your speeds are likely to be.
How fast is DSL internet?
DSL internet speeds vary by provider and location, but speeds typically range between 1 and 24 Mbps. Faster speeds ranging from 50 to 200 Mbps may be available in select areas.
Proximity to the ISP or an extender also plays a role in what DSL speeds are available. Increased distance from the ISP can result in slower available speeds. This is why DSL speeds can vary greatly from ZIP code to ZIP code where other internet types may not see as much speed variance.