Fiber vs. DSL Internet: Which Should You Use?

Fiber optic internet outperforms DSL in every category, making it an ideal choice. It offers more bandwidth and won’t reduce in speed if you’re further from your provider.

As an internet enthusiast, I want to know the most optimal internet connectivity for homes. Because of this desire, I compiled this guide that pits fiber and DSL internet against each other.

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

Read on and find your home the best internet type.

Should You Get Fiber or DSL Internet?

Choose fiber over DSL internet in any scenario. Here are my reasons:

  • More bandwidth: online activities without interruptions
  • Lower median latency: less lag when gaming or during online video calls
  • Won’t suffer from attenuation: speeds won’t lower if you live further from your ISP
  • More reliable: not susceptible to electromagnetic interference

Though the below chart says DSL has a lower average monthly fee, equipment rental fees will add more money to your bill. In some cases, like with Frontier, you could pay more for DSL than fiber.

Fiber vs. DSL Internet

Compare DSL and fiber internet before reading further:

Best For8K streaming, competitive online gaming, & file transfersSaving a bit of money & general browsing
Max. Speed10 Gbps120 Mbps
Avg. Latency8.1 ms34 ms
Avg. Monthly Fee$64/mo.$51/mo.
Equipment NeededONT & routerDSL modem & router
InstallationRequires professional installationSelf-installation possible
Fiber and DSL internet compared.

I compiled these numbers from comparing the median latency among fiber optic and DSL internet providers. Your actual ping will vary.

Fiber vs. DSL: Latency

Fiber offers much lower latency than DSL internet. Making it a better option for video conferences, online classes, and online competitive gaming.

Because the lower the latency, the less lag you’ll encounter.

Fiber vs. DSL: Speed

Fiber optic internet offers maximum download speeds almost 100 times higher than DSL’s. And nearly all fiber plans have symmetric speeds (equal download/upload). Making it ideal for any online task.

Regarding DSL upload speed. You’re lucky if you can operate a single home security camera. They usually require 4.0 Mbps of upstream bandwidth per device.

Fiber optic internet could run more than 20 of these, support livestreaming in 4K UHD, and give you enough bandwidth to upload videos at the same time.

Before moving on, let’s see an example. Say you want to upload an hour-long 4K video to YouTube. And it’s 45 GB [1].

With 120 Mbps from DSL, you’ll waste almost an hour of your life uploading that file. With 10 Gbps internet, you’ll spend 36 seconds.

Too extreme?

1.0 Gbps upload speeds would take you 6 minutes. You could watch 2 episodes of Futurama in the 44 minutes you saved from uploading files.

Fiber vs. DSL: Availability

Let’s compare DSL and fiber internet’s availability [2]:

  • Fiber: 38%
  • 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%

You’ll find more areas throughout the country that offer HIGH-speed connectivity with fiber compared to DSL.

Fiber vs. DSL: Costs, Equipment, & Installation

Fiber internet plans usually come with a $100 equipment installation fee. But providers often won’t charge you to rent their devices. Whereas, DSL does.

While $100 is a higher upfront cost, imagine paying $14 a month for a gateway rental fee for a DSL plan. That’ll cost $168 annually.

DSL internet providers will send customers getting started kits. These include your gateway/modem and some cables. Plug these into your wall, phone jack, and maybe router. Afterward, activate your device.

Fiber internet requires professional installation. As the technician will install an optical network terminal (ONT). It serves as your home’s fiber modem.

The technicians will install an ONT in your building’s utility closet. Or outside, where utilities enter your home. Sometimes, your home or business may have an existing ONT from the ISP you choose.

But providers may still charge a fee to activate your equipment.

Fiber vs. DSL: Reliability

Fiber’s more reliable than DSL because its glass cables make it immune to electromagnetic and radio frequency interferences. Because of these immunities, you have fewer factors to cause internet outages.

Fiber vs. DSL: For Gaming

Since fiber internet has ultra-low latency, it’s a better choice for online gaming. Download-speed-requirement-wise, both connection types do fine. Since online games on consoles, PCs, and phones usually require 3.0 Mbps download speeds.

That doesn’t factor in DSL network attenuation. Attenuation is when your signal loses strength over time. Resulting in higher bandwidth and lower network speeds.

DSL internet requires you to live close to your provider to function well. Since you can’t figure out how close you live to your ISP, it’s difficult to determine how much attenuation your internet will suffer from.

Thus, I wouldn’t trust DSL internet connections for competitive online gaming. Trust fiber. Because it doesn’t suck, nor suffer from attenuation.

Fiber vs. DSL: For Business

Low upload speeds make DSL an unviable option for businesses doing most online tasks. Each team member will want 3.0 Mbps upload speeds to run video chatting software. A task many DSL plans can’t handle.

If that isn’t enough to sway you, consider download speeds. With a maximum of 120 Mbps download speeds, you SHOULDN’T offer free Wi-Fi. Otherwise, guests will hog all your bandwidth.

Low download speeds aren’t great for productivity. Refer to my above example when I compare fiber and DSL speeds.

If you’re unfamiliar with attenuation, refer to the previous section about gaming. Since DSL customers suffer from this signal loss, they’ll have higher latency and lower network speeds. Lower latency will result in laggy video discussions.

Something you don’t want when trying to listen to a team member, interviewee, or client.

Fiber vs. DSL: For Video Streaming

Always choose fiber for streaming online videos. It doesn’t have data caps like cable internet, yet it has enough bandwidth to allow more than 20 devices to stream 4K UHD videos simultaneously.

Here’s a chart that displays speed requirements from major video hosting platforms:

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
Internet speed requirements from different video services compared.

DSL packages that offer 100 Mbps or higher internet speeds could accommodate a device or 2 streaming 4K UHD video. When factoring in the number of other devices in your home hogging bandwidth.

Whether through other online activities or background tasks like cloud storage syncing.

What Is Fiber Optic Internet?

Customers receive internet from optical network terminals (ONT) after ISPs send signals from their facilities to homes and businesses through fiber optic cables. These signals travel at light speed.

ONTs convert optical signals to digital ones. Without these signals, your devices (e.g., laptops) couldn’t interpret the received signals. Think of an ONT as a fiber optic modem.

Providers like Verizon will also offer fiber optic television services. These services provide the same benefits as fiber internet and also will transit through fiber optic cables that reach your home.

Pros & Cons of Fiber Optic Internet

Areas where fiber internet wins include:

  • Low latency
  • High speeds
  • More reliable

Fiber didn’t do well in these areas, though:

  • Availability
  • Requires adding infrastructure

In some scenarios, DSL internet doesn’t require additional infrastructure. Since it utilizes existing copper cables. You’re also more likely to find DSL providers outside cities.

Most Popular Fiber Optic Internet Providers

Here’s what’s available regarding fiber ISPs:

Provider* Starting PriceMax. Speed# of States ServicedBest For
Verizon Fios$49.99–$89.99/mo.300–940 Mbps9 (Availability map)Remote work & discounts
AT&T Fiber$55–$180/mo.300–5,000 Mbps21 (Availability map)Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Frontier Fiber$39.99–$149.99/mo.500–2,000 Mbps25 (Availability map)Online gaming & home server management
Ziply Fiber$20–$300/mo.50–5,000 Mbps4Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Optimum Fiber$40–$180/mo.300–5,000 Mbps17Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
CenturyLink$30–$70/mo.200–940 Mbps16 (Availability map)Remote work
Xfinity Gigabit Pro$300/mo.6.0 Gbps40 (Availability map)Managing Home servers
Google Fiber$70–$100/mo.1.0–2.0 Gbps9Livestreaming
Windstream$39.99–$69.99/mo.500–1,000 Mbps18Home server management, cloud gaming, & video streaming
Fiber 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.

If available in your area, Verizon Fios offers the most value. First, they provide a 10-year price guarantee, which means you’re invulnerable to price hikes for a while. Then they offer a $25 discount if you bundle your home internet with mobile plans.

If you use Google Drive a lot, consider Google Fiber. They’ll give you 1.0 terabytes (TB) of free cloud storage.

Both providers don’t offer much availability, though. Nor do they provide download speeds higher than 2.0 Gbps. However, the latter modern issue applies to those who manage home servers.

Or frequently download/upload massive files.

In that case, consider Xfinity, Ziply, Frontier, or AT&T. All these providers also offer fiber products in more areas. Except for Ziply.

And if none of these providers service your area, consider Windstream.

What Is DSL Internet?

Digital service line/loop (DSL) internet delivers internet connectivity to homes through copper telephone cables. These signals will transmit internet to devices upon reaching homes through a DSL modem.

Most homes use asymmetric DSL (ADSL). Meaning, customers who are farther away from the internet provider will receive less priority regarding internet. Less priority means slower internet speed.

There’s also symmetric DSL (SDSL) and a handful of other types. It would take me forever to explain them in this guide, though. You’ll need to explore my in-depth guide covering DSL internet.

Let’s explore the pros and cons.

Pros & Cons of DSL Internet

Here’s where DSL internet shines:

  • Affordable: in some circumstances
  • Doesn’t require installing new infrastructure

And here’s why DSL isn’t the best:

  • Slower speeds when further from provider
  • Low upload speeds

Fiber internet doesn’t suffer from attenuation, which means signal loss over distance. Meaning, you could live far from your provider and not suffer from slower internet. Fiber also offers a million times (not literally) higher upload speeds.

Making it an ideal choice for managing home security cameras, livestreaming, and backing up files.

Most Popular DSL Internet Providers

Popular digital service line providers include:

Provider* Starting PriceAverage 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.

AT&T has begun phasing out DSL services, making it difficult to recommend [3]. Why? Because they want to focus on their fiber optic products.

Frontier doesn’t provide much information on their DSL products, either. And my interactions with their customer service suggest they’re not focusing on digital service line. This revelation also makes it difficult to recommend Frontier.

So. Windstream and CenturyLink are your only viable options. Unless you choose a local or niche provider.

Windstream seems a bit shy to share their upload speeds, which worries me. Though CenturyLink has low upload speeds, they’re comparable to many cable internet plans. You could run several home security cameras and maybe livestream on Twitch.

Other Internet Options

Compare other internet types to fiber and DSL before locking yourself to a plan:

Internet TypeStrengthsWeaknessesBest For
FiberEqual DL & upload speedsRequires additional infrastructureAny online task
DSLAffordableNetwork attenuation & low UL speedGeneral browsing & watching videos under 1080p
Fixed WirelessAffordable & high DL speedsPhysical obstacles can interfere with signalsBackup internet connection
CableAffordable & high DL speedsThrottling during peak hours & data capsGaming & online video streaming
SatelliteMost accessibleExpensive, slow, & high-latencyBackup internet connection
Internet connection types compared.

Here are the connection types to choose in order:

  1. Fiber: high speed, low-latency, & affordable
  2. 5G fixed wireless access: contract- & data-cap free
  3. Cable: affordable & can handle most online tasks
  4. DSL: reliable & reasonable download speeds
  5. 4G fixed wireless access: high download speeds & no contract
  6. Satellite: consider other options first

Always pick fiber among other connection types. You’ll have the most bandwidth, lowest latency, and most reliability. Many fiber providers price their products competitively. Making it a more attractive option for anyone.

If you qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you should take an extra $30 off your bill. This makes fiber even more accessible.

I’m not going to talk about the ACP in this guide. You’ll need to visit this website to learn more:

5G fixed wireless access (FWA) works great for homes that don’t have many trees between their home and the FWA antenna. These and other physical obstacles will interfere with your internet connectivity.

Don’t have access to 5G FWA or fiber? Go with cable. It’s faster and cheaper (sometimes) than DSL.

I recommend DSL if you live closer to your internet provider. As you’ll have faster speeds. Since providers don’t provide their facility’s locations, it’s difficult to know whether your connection will suffer from attenuation.

If the sound of DSL internet leaves a sour taste in your mouth, consider 4G LTE FWA. It offers decent speeds and doesn’t enforce a data cap—in most cases. But it doesn’t have the best latency.

And it’s weak against physical obstacles like 5G FWA.

If you’ve exhausted all your options, consider satellite.

FAQs: Fiber & DSL Internet

Let’s explore frequently asked questions about fiber and DSL internet.

How Do I Know if I Have Fiber or DSL?

Check whether your home has an optical network terminal (ONT) to determine whether you have fiber. Search for this internet box in utility closets or where utilities enter your home outside.

Is DSL Internet Obsolete?

DSL internet isn’t obsolete, yet. However, many providers like AT&T have begun phasing it out of their offerings [4].

Is DSL Good Enough for Netflix?

DSL internet packages that offer 1.0–5.0 Mbps download speeds are good enough to stream 720p HD and 1080p FHD videos on Netflix.


Never choose DSL over fiber if the latter connection type is available in your area. You may not utilize all the bandwidth fiber offers. But you’ll get more value compared to DSL.

If fiber isn’t available, consider cable or fixed wireless access internet.

Whatever option you go with, you’ll need an internet service provider. We’ve compared all the popular ones throughout various guides. Check them out.

Was this article helpful?

Leave a Comment