DSL vs Cable vs Fiber-optic — What’s the Difference?

Over the years, an internet connection has become a utility for every household and business. You need it for just about anything from completing a school project to ordering groceries online and from working from home to streaming a movie or TV show. Regardless of what you are doing online, an internet connection makes it possible for you to surf through the web and send and receive data in the form of emails, web pages, social media posts, videos, and more.

The type of internet connection you use mostly depends on the infrastructure that exists where you live and these said connections include cable, fiber optics, and DSL. Cable internet and TV services like the ones offered by Spectrum cable services use coaxial cables to transmit internet and TV signals. Fiber optic delivers these signals in the form of pulses of light transmitted through strands of fiber made out of plastic or glass. And DSL or Digital Subscriber Line uses telephone lines to transmit digital data. In this article, we’ll further discuss the differences between the above-mentioned types of internet connections and determine which one is better than the other in terms of price, speed, and availability.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line)

DSL uses the existing cable lines to transmit digital data and it offers download speeds in the 5–35 Mbps range. It is also a reliable internet connection as the speed remains consistent throughout the day. Digital Subscriber Line has two separate types of connections: SDSL and ADSL. ADSL or Asymmetric DSL is one of the cheapest types of internet connection and offers relatively fast download speeds, although the upload speed is usually mid-range or worse. Whereas, SDSL or Symmetric DSL offers symmetrical download and upload internet speeds.

DSL is one of the most affordable options among all broadband services and it is also widely available across the country as almost every cable company and internet service provider offer it. SDSL is a great choice if you want an affordable internet connection, although it is important to note that DSL is not among the most technologically advanced internet services so the speed and the quality of the connection may vary. If you are located somewhere far from the provider’s central hub, the average speed of the internet will be slower. As compared to other broadband services DSL provides the slowest internet speed.


The coaxial cables that supply cable TV to your home can also be used to provide internet services. Cable internet services provide a download speed of up to 10 – 940 Mbps and an upload speed of up to 5 – 50 Mbps. Almost all cable service providers offer bundled packages of internet, TV, and phone services.

Cable broadband offers affordable and high-speed internet connection, which is also easy to set up in any household. If you already have a cable TV, odds are you can add the cable internet services to your existing account. However, cable internet services are relatively less reliable as during internet rush hours the internet speed tends to slow down, making it hard for the user to do various online activities like streaming movies or using online social platforms.


This is the newest, fastest, and most advanced type of internet service. It uses pulses of light to carry data. The fiber-optic cables are made out of a number of hair-like strands of glass which transmit laser-generated pulses that move along the fiber optic cables at the speed of light. The best thing about this fiber-optic internet is that it offers symmetrical download and upload speeds of up to 250 – 1000 Mbps. However, the biggest issue with fiber-optic internet services is that it is not available in most regions as it is a relatively new technology and is mostly available in metropolitan cities like Texas, California, and New York.

Wrapping Up

Which type of internet service is right for you depends largely on where you live. If you live in an area where you have the leverage to choose between two or more networks then the decision vastly depends on your internet and TV usage.

If you use the internet for basic online activities like browsing or sending emails, a DSL internet connection may be the most affordable option. But if you use the internet to stream HD movies and play video games, a fiber optic internet connection would be a better option, given it is available in your region. 

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