Fiber vs. Cable vs. DSL – What you Need to Know

The average consumer has no idea of the differences between cable, DSL and fiber optic internet access. This is quite understandable because most users are only concerned about the end result. The truth is that while all can provide you with high-speed capabilities, these services are very distinct and their differences could be the determining factor in which type of internet access you choose. This article will closely examine this hotly contested battle to help you better determine which is right for your needs.


A Digital Subscriber Line or DSL connection, uses the existing copper wire of your phone line to deliver high speed internet access. While not as fast as cable, this type of connection is incredibly faster than dial-up and suits the needs of most home users just fine. On top of being suitably fast, this type of connection also tends to be notably less expensive than cable, which is the main reason it has became such a popular option so quickly. One critical factor that will impact your decision on DSL is the distance between your home or office residence and the provider’s central office. The further you are from the main line, the weaker the signal, and the slower the connection. With that being said, DSL is not as widely available as cable so you will need to inquire with your local phone company regarding availability.


Though often confused with fiber, cable utilizes the coaxial cable that connects to your television set. In contrast to DSL, the quality of a cable connection does not depend on distance so your speed is guaranteed regardless. However, unlike DSL, which runs on a dedicated line, cable connections are typically shared amongst your neighbors, making it a slightly less secure option. As far as speed goes, cable access range from about 3 to 10 Mbps, which is essentially 3 to 4 times faster than DSL. Keeping in mind that this speed is reflected in the price, you should expect to pay a lot more for cable service.


Provided by companies such as AT&T, Qwest and Verizon, fiber optic offers many advantages over conventional copper cable lines. It is able to transmit data much faster over greater distances and because the cable is smaller in diameter and weighs less, it makes an ideal alternative for a wide variety of cabling solutions. Since the conductor is glass and cannot generate electricity, fiber is immune to all sorts of interference. This means that it can come in direct contact with high-voltage electrical equipment, power lines and lightning, all while still putting out a superior performance. Because fiber optic cables cost less to maintain, the price for service tends to be much less than cable and very competitive with DSL. The major downside to fiber is that service is only available in a few markets, so there is no guarantee that you will be able to find it.


Choosing between cable, DSL and fiber all depends on your needs. If you only need to use the internet casually or want to save money, DSL is probably the best option. This allows you to use the net at quality speeds without breaking the bank for it. Fiber would make the best choice for obtaining the fastest possible speed. The hardest part may be finding service in your area. If you want a tried and true solution with a super-fast connection, cable would be the way to go. It is much easier to find but also the most expensive option by far. There really is no wrong choice as all three can provide you with high-speed access that ensures an optimal internet experience.


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