Cable vs. DSL Internet: Which Should You Use?

Cable internet outperforms DSL internet in almost every category. Except throttling. This means that cable internet works best for performing any online task when everyone in your neighborhood isn’t online.

I want to find the best internet connectivity type. This quest has led me to write this guide and compare a couple of the most popular options; DSL and cable.

As you read on, I’ll cover the following:

Let’s begin.

Should You Get Cable or DSL Internet?

Pick cable internet over DSL for the following reasons:

  • Higher average speeds: better for file downloads & 4K video streaming
  • Less latency: better for lag-free video conferencing & online gaming
  • Easier to find third-party modems: saves money on equipment rental fees
  • Could bundle with cable TV: ideal for homes who also want cable television

DSL is viable if you want to avoid throttling while everyone in your neighborhood’s online. So long as you live close to your internet service provider. Otherwise, you’ll have slower speeds.

However, there’s no way to determine the distance between your home and provider.

Cable vs. DSL Internet

Let’s throw DSL and cable internet into the Thunderdome:

Best ForBundling with cable TV, online gaming, & watching videosSaving a bit of money & general browsing
Max. Speed1.2 Gbps120 Mbps
Avg. Latency15 ms34 ms
Avg. Monthly Fee$51/mo.$51/mo.
Equipment NeededCable modem & routerDSL modem & router
InstallationSelf-installation possibleSelf-installation possible
Cable and DSL internet compared.

I found the listed average latencies by finding the median ping of all popular ISPs for each connection type.

Cable vs. DSL: Latency

For the most part, cable internet is a better choice for online classes, video calls, and online gaming. Because it has lower latency.

That doesn’t factor in throttling. As this occurrence will increase your latency. And could alter the average ping mentioned earlier.

If you notice horrendous ping when many others in your area are online, you’d need to try adjusting your schedule to combat the latency increase. Otherwise, DSL MAY serve as a better option.

So long as you live close enough to your provider. Otherwise, you may encounter higher latency because of attenuation. Attenuation is when internet signals weaken the longer they travel.

Cable vs. DSL: Speed

Cable offers 10 times the maximum download speeds as fiber. And up to 35 Mbps upload speeds. Making it a fantastic option for online video streaming, managing cloud security cameras, livestreaming, and most other online tasks.

So long as you manage your data within the confines of your provider’s data cap.

Higher-end DSL plans could handle frequent small file downloads (at least under 1.0 GB), maybe a single cloud security camera, and streaming 1080p FHD videos.

Cable vs. DSL: Availability

Let’s compare availability for DSL (copper) and cable internet [1]:

  • DSL
    • 0.2/0.2 Mbps: 57.71%
    • 10/1.0 Mbps: 39.59%
    • 25/3.0 Mbps: 22.82%
    • 100/20 Mbps: 4.68%
  • Cable: 80%

Cable offers much more availability for high- and low-speed internet than DSL.

Cable vs. DSL: Costs

DSL and cable packages generally have identical costs. Some providers will charge self-installation fees. And most providers will charge you to rent their equipment.

Many providers who offer either service will also let you waive your equipment fees when buying third-party equipment. Though, you’ll likely have a hard time trying to find DSL modems and gateways. I did when trying to find equipment for Frontier DSL.

The one area DSL comes out ahead is the lack of data overage surcharges. Many cable providers will charge $10 per additional 50 GB you use upon passing their data cap.

Cable vs. DSL: Reliability

Cable’s more reliable than DSL since it doesn’t require you to live close to internet service providers for decent connection speeds. But it’s susceptible to throttling during peak times.

Meaning, once everyone gets off work and hops on the internet, you’ll have slower internet. But neither connection method is susceptible to storms and other lousy weather conditions.

Cable vs. DSL: Equipment & Installation

Both internet connection types require modems/gateways and routers. Providers will supply a self-installation kit that requires you to plug in your devices, activate your modem/gateway, and browse the internet.

Cable vs. DSL: For Gaming

Cable has the upper hand over DSL with gaming since it usually has less latency. Which is the most important factor that’ll determine your online gaming experience.

Here’s an example. I once PVPed in World of Warcraft with 100 ping. It was an awful experience, and I died a lot because of lag.

Gaming online, whether on a PC or console, requires at least 3.0 Mbps download speeds [2]. Most packages both connection types should accommodate this.

What if you want to watch videos on a separate monitor?

I wouldn’t recommend doing so with a 4K UHD video. Since you’ll have split focus anyway. Say you want to have background videos running in 1080p FHD. That’ll require 5.0 Mbps download speeds.

At this point, you’ll need 8.0 Mbps. Again, both providers can handle this demand.

Cable vs. DSL: For Business

Cable is better than DSL for small, medium, and large-sized businesses. It provides 10 times more maximum download speeds, and it’s possible to bundle with cable TV.

Since businesses can bundle cable, they could provide TV entertainment for guests. Whether at a bar, coffee shop, or waiting room.

DSL doesn’t have such a luxury. I’d usually recommend live streaming TV as an alternative. But with the low download speeds DSL offers, that’s a bad idea.

Because you’ll likely use all your bandwidth just by doing basic online tasks with your team’s devices.

Cable vs. DSL: For Video Streaming

Cable internet works better for watching 4K and 8K UHD videos online. So long as it doesn’t have a data cap. Otherwise, DSL plans with higher speeds would support online video streaming better without resulting in data overage surcharges.

Each device will need at least 25 Mbps to stream 4K video. Some sources suggest you’ll need 100–200 Mbps per device to stream 8K video [3 PDF link]. DSL could handle up to 4 devices when streaming 4K.

But not 8K. However, no major video platforms host 8K UHD videos. That’s an issue for later.

Need a better illustration?

Here are the download speeds needed to stream content through the most popular streaming providers:

TaskDownload Speed
Netflix3.0 Mbps: 720p
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
25 Mbps: 4K
Disney+5.0 Mbps: 1080p
25 Mbps: 4K
Hulu3.0 Mbps: Hulu’s Streaming Library
8.0 Mbps: livestreaming television
16 Mbps: 4K
Peacock TV3.0 Mbps: 1080p
Spotify2.0 Mbps
YouTube2.5 Mbps: 720p
5.0 Mbps: 1080p
20 Mbps: 4K

What Is Broadband Cable Internet?

Broadband cable internet uses coaxial cables to ferry internet services from the ISP to your home’s modem or network gateway (modem/router combo). Speeds for cable plans go as high as 1,200 Mbps (download).

And 35 Mbps upload speeds.

Unless your area has no cable infrastructure, providers allow you to install your own equipment.

Does cable internet and TV use the same cable?

Yes. Since these services share the same coaxial networks, providers offer both products. Sometimes they’ll provide lower pricing when bundling their products.

But most cable internet plans come with a hidden cost. Hard data caps. Providers like Xfinity and Cox allow you to use “X” terabytes (TB) of data before slapping a data overage charge on your bill.

These fees appear on your bill after breaking through their bandwidth cap. Every provider I’ve researched charges $10 per additional 50 gigabytes (GB) of internet used each month.

Let’s see the advantages and disadvantages of cable.

Pros & Cons of Broadband Cable Internet

Advantages to using cable internet include:

  • Almost all providers offer cable TV bundles
  • Reasonable download speeds
  • Acceptable average latency

Some losses cable internet faces include:

  • Lower speeds during peak hours
  • Asymmetric internet speeds

The only con DSL could provide an advantage over is the “peak hours” one. Digital service line customers won’t encounter throttled speeds during times when many people in one area are online.

Most Popular Cable Internet Service Providers

The most popular cable providers in the U.S. include the following:

Provider* Starting PriceSpeed# of States ServicedData Cap?Best For
Spectrum$49.99–$89.99/mo.300–1,000 Mbps (DL)
10–35 Mbps (UL)
41 (Availability Map)NoOnline gaming & file downloads
Xfinity Cable$20–$120/mo.75–2,000 Mbps (DL)
10–35 Mbps (UL)
48 (Availability Map)1.20 TB720p video streaming
Cox$49.99–$79.99/mo.100–1,000 Mbps (DL)
5.0–35 Mbps (UL)
19 (Availability Map)1.25 TB720p video streaming
WOW!$29.99–$94.99/mo.200–1,200 Mbps (DL) 5.0–50 Mbps (UL)91.5–3.0 TB1080p video streaming
Cable internet providers compared.

* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors.

Spectrum doesn’t have a data cap, but has confirmed they will “manage congestion. [4]” Meaning they may throttle your internet speed during peak hours. If you don’t mind slower speeds, or avoid using the internet during peak hours, Spectrum works best.

Especially for homes who frequently download/upload files and watch 4K UHD online videos. These tasks will burn through data caps the quickest.

Or you could hand Xfinity an additional $25 a month for their xFi Complete gateway. Then you’ll get unlimited data and increased upload speeds. The increased upstream bandwidth will vary by plan.

If your home won’t burn through a 1.0 terabyte (TB) data cap, and to avoid Spectrum and Xfinity, consider Cox or WOW!. The latter offers higher data caps on their 500 Mbps and higher plans. And the former…

It’s an option.

Let’s move on to DSL internet.

What Is Digital Service Line Internet?

Digital service loop/line (DSL) internet sends internet connectivity to home DSL modems through copper telephone wires. It uses a different frequency from landline phones. Meaning, your household could use both services simultaneously without interference.

Most DSL providers will give homes an asymmetric digital service line (ADSL) internet. Meaning homes closer to the ISP will receive prioritized bandwidth, higher speeds.

Other DSL types exist, but you’ll have to check out my other guide to learn more. It’s too much to type in this already long guide.

For now, let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of this relic.

Pros & Cons of Digital Service Line Internet

Here’s where DSL internet shines:

  • More affordable: in some circumstances
  • Dedicated circuit line: no sharing your connection with neighbors
  • No phone service interference
  • Doesn’t require installing new infrastructure

And here’s why DSL isn’t the best:

  • Slower speeds when further from provider
  • Low upload speeds

In many scenarios, cable internet provides higher upload speeds. Which makes it a better choice for managing smart home devices and livestreaming. But not enough to manage home servers.

Despite many customers who may experience lower speeds during peak hours, at least you won’t have slower internet when living further from the provider. To compensate for cable’s throttling weakness, just tell your boss you want to work different hours.

To use the internet when everyone else isn’t online. They should understand your plight. Also, tell them a stranger on the internet suggested the schedule change.

Most Popular Digital Service Line Internet Providers

Check out the most popular DSL ISPs:

Provider* Starting PriceMax. Speed# of States ServicedData Cap?
Frontier DSL$28–$45/mo.6.0–45 Mbps25 (Availability Map)No
AT&T DSL$55–65/mo.0.8–500 Mbps (DL)
0.4–100 Mbps (UL)
21 (Availability Map)150 GB
CenturyLink$50/mo.20–140 Mbps (DL)
10–12 Mbps (UL)
15 (Availability Map)No
Kinetic by Windstream$37/mo.100 Mbps18No
DSL internet service providers compared.

* Does not include taxes and other fees. These will vary by region. Actual internet speed will vary by connectivity method (e.g., Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet) among other factors.

Windstream and CenturyLink are the only viable options on this list. Though, the former doesn’t list their upload speeds.

AT&T has begun phasing out their DSL services, which makes me weary of recommending it [5]. Because it may vanish. And I had to pull teeth—not literally—to get information out of Frontier regarding their DSL products.

Let’s see what other options you have.

Other Internet Connection Options Compared

Compare other internet connection types before making any purchases:

Internet TypeStrengthsWeaknessesBest For
DSLNot susceptible to throttlingLower speeds when further from ISPWatching 1080p or lower res. videos
CableAffordable & high DL speedsThrottlingWatching videos under 4K res. & online gaming
Fixed WirelessNo hard data cap & high DL speedsSusceptible to interference from treesWatching videos & online gaming
FiberLow-latency, high-speed, & affordableLimited availability & high installation feesRemote workers, home servers, & constant file downloads/uploads
SatelliteMost accessibleSlow & expensiveBackup internet
Internet connection options compared.

Here are the connection types to choose in order:

  1. Fiber: low-latency, high-speed, & reliable
  2. 5G fixed wireless access: high-speed, low-latency, & contract-free
  3. Cable: speeds will suit most homes
  4. DSL: could offer higher speeds if you live close to the provider
  5. 4G fixed wireless access: reasonable speeds & accessible in most areas
  6. Satellite: pick it as a last resort

Fiber internet’s the overall best connection type. You can’t beat higher bandwidth, lower speeds, and equal download/upload speeds. It’s ideal for any household and provides the most value.

Even if you don’t utilize all the speeds your plan offers.

Both fixed wireless access (FWA) options could perform better than DSL. So long as you live in an area that doesn’t have many physical obstacles between your home and the FWA antenna. Because objects like trees could interfere with your internet connectivity.

Satellite’s a last-resort option. Meaning, I won’t emphasize.

That brings us to cable and DSL. The former offers more availability, higher speeds, less bandwidth, and bundle(ability). Why would you choose DSL?

FAQs: DSL & Cable Internet

Keep reading to find frequently asked questions about cable and digital service line internet.

Is DSL or Cable Internet Better?

Cable internet is better than DSL. It provides higher speeds, lower latency, and doesn’t suffer from lower speeds when living further away from your ISP.


Now we know cable is better than DSL. In every category except usage during peak hours. If possible, get cable internet instead of DSL.

If neither option is available, consider fixed wireless access internet. Then satellite.

Once you find an ideal connection type for your home, peruse all the ISPs we’ve reviewed. Doing so will help you find a company that offers the most value.

Was this article helpful?

Leave a Comment