The Difference Between Fiber Optic, Cable & DSL Internet

Yolisa Motha
Internet Provider Comparisons

If there were a race for internet types, these three would take the podium.

With Fiber coming in first place, Cable a close second, and DSL internet proudly in third.

All three are broadband services, which is tech speak for “different than dial-up.”

But while they share a common definition, each varies in technology, speed and price.

Time you learned the difference? You've come to the right place. HomeLinkd has provided this easy guide explaining the differences between these internet service providers.

Know your connection: DSL internet, fiber optic and cable

What is DSL internet?

DSL stands for “Digital Subscriber Line”. DSL internet is transferred through existing telephone wires. Or in other words, the lines you're already “digitally subscribed” to. Unlike dial-up, DSL internet uses different frequencies for phone and internet so that you can use both at the same time.

DSL is slower than fiber and cable, but it's generally cheaper and more widely available.

What is fiber optic internet?

Fiber gets its name from its fiber-optic cables underground, through which data is sent as pulses of light.

It's the fastest internet around today, but available to only a quarter of Americans.

What is cable internet?

Cable internet uses existing television cables (or coaxial cables) to transmit internet to your home.

It's the most popular choice for most US residents, since it delivers high speeds at reasonable costs. It's not as fast as fiber, but much faster than DSL.

DSL internet service -what you need to know

DSL has been around since the 80s. And because most neighborhoods already have telephone wires, it's a resourceful choice.

Download speeds:5 –35Mbps
Upload speeds:1 –10Mbps

‍DSL requires you to have firewall protection, so it's actually more secure than Fiber and Cable. And unlike Cable, which slows down if your neighbors are all online at once, DSL's speeds are unaffected by user congestion.

ADSL and VDSL are altered versions of DSL.The “A” in ADSL stands for “asymmetric” since it offers much higher upload speeds than download speeds. The “V” in VDSL stands for “very-high-bit-rate" and is a newer and faster rendition.

Understanding fiber optic internet

Fiber optic internet transmits data through hair-thin strands of fiber glass. Fiber can send data at light speed, making it the fastest —and most reliable —internet of all time.

Download speeds:up to 1000Mbps
Upload speeds:up to 1000Mbps

To install fiber in your home, you'll need fiber optic infrastructure in your area. Then, you'll need to find an ISP in your area and get their technician to run additional fiber cables to your home. You'll also need a fiber-ready modem and router.

A lot of people ask, “is fiber internet better than DSL?"

In short, the answer is yes. But of course, it'll cost more money.

For more on how to install fiber, read our article how to install fiber.

All the facts about cable internet

Cable internet is available to 90% of Americans, since most people have access to cable TV. Of course, it's usually bundled with TV channels or telephone deals.

Download speeds:10 –1000Mbps
Upload speeds: 5 –100Mbps

Cable is not as expensive as fiber but still offers good speeds. But, since it uses a shared line to a central office, its speeds can be slowed down when more users are online at once.
For more on cable internet and how it works, read our article cable internet and how it works.

DSL vs cable vs Fiber Optic: what’s right for you

Choose your internet like you would a pair of shoes —is it a good fit for you?
Check out our table below which lists what's best for your area and preferences.

Compare all internet providers and deals with Homelinkd

Now that you know the difference between three leading internet types, you can make informed decisions when selecting an ISP or internet plan for your home.

Regardless of what internet you choose, Homelinkd’s got you covered.

Browse and compare all our offerings by provider, speed, price and more, compare all our offerings by provider.

Written by:
Yolisa Motha
Senior Copywriter

Yolisa is a word artist who's on a quest to help businesses make an impact so powerful - it causes a ripple effect. If Yolisa isn't painting pictures with her words, you'll find her hiking up a mountain or soaking up the beach sun.

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