What Type of Internet Service Provider is Best for You?

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Internet service does not come in a one-size-fits-all package. Nor are all internet service providers created equal.  Before committing, you need to consider upload speeds, download speeds, DSL, cable, fiber, and more. But don’t worry, it’s not as overwhelming as you might think.

This guide will help you better understand the important differences between broadband services, internet plans, and more. And with that knowledge, you can answer the question: “Which type of internet service provider is best for me?”

DSL vs. Cable vs. Fiber

Different internet service providers offer different types of internet connections. The most common high-speed internet connections are DSL, cable, and fiber. And while some companies may offer more than one type of connection, the availability of each usually depends on your geographic location.

DSL Basics

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is one step above the old dial-up services. Like dial-up, it uses telephone landlines. But unlike dial-up, you can use the phone and internet at the same time. It is faster than dial-up, but it is still the slowest “high-speed” option available today.

DSL Pros: Widely available, most affordable

DSL Cons:  Slow internet speeds

Cable Basics

Cable internet is connected through your coaxial cable, which is the outlet with the little silver protrusion that also connects your TV service. Cable internet service is the crowd favorite. It is widely available and fast enough for most users.

Cable Pros: Widely available, faster than DSL and sometimes faster than fiber

Cable Cons: Sometimes expensive, may only be one available service provider in your area

Fiber Basics

Fiber, or more accurately Fiber-optic, is the Ferrari of high-speed internet. It transmits data using light, not electricity. And as we all know, light is fast. But fiber internet is not widely available. It is also more than most users need and the price might outweigh the speedy benefits for some.

Fiber Pros: Fast download speeds, fastest upload speed

Fiber Cons: Not widely available, typically most expensive

How Fast is Fast Enough?

Now let’s answer the mother of all internet questions: how much internet speed do you need? You might be surprised to learn that the average recommended internet speed for households with multiple internet users is only 12-25 Mbps. These speeds should even be able to handle frequent online streaming and basic online gaming.

Home offices and serious online gamers may require more to keep their work and play running smoothly. If you frequently transfer large files or take gaming more seriously than most, you should look for internet speeds over 40 Mbps.

Download vs. Upload Speeds

When asking how much internet speed you need, you are actually asking a two-part question. Internet speed is broken down to download and upload speeds. Download speed is how fast data comes in, and upload speed is how fast data goes out.

Download Speed: important for surfing the internet, downloading files, and streaming videos or music

Upload Speed: important for sending emails, uploading files, live video chats, and online gaming

  • Internet Connection: DSL

Download Speed: 5-35 Mbps

Upload Speed: 1-10 Mbps

  • Internet Connection: Cable Internet

Download Speed: 10-500 Mbps
Upload Speed: 5-50 Mbps

  • Internet Connection: Fiber Optic

Download Speed: 250-1,000 Mbps

Upload Speed: 250-1,000 Mbps

Based on the recommendations, cable internet is a safe bet for most households, including those with home offices and serious gamers. But keep in mind that advertised speeds are usually less than actual speeds for DSL and Cable. So, if you are trying to decide between two internet plans, it is usually best to cushion your estimated download and upload speeds.

The Takeaway: DSL vs. Cable vs. Fiber

Before you delve any deeper, you should start by seeing what cable providers and types of high-speed internet connections are available in your area. You may find that the decision is made for you as to what internet provider is best for you. At the very least, you can narrow down your options and go from there. In summary, DSL will get the job done in most cases, cable will meet most internet users’ needs, and fiber is fast but possibly excessive.

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