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Comparison: DSL vs. Broadband

written by: J. Edward Casteele•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 1/25/2010

With so many choices to make, choosing the right Internet connection to suit your needs and requirements is also difficult. The article explains the difference between broadband and DSL. The article answers the basic question: is broadband and DSL the same?

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    Explaining Terminology

    People often get confused with terminology used to describe an Internet service. DSL, broadband, and cable are common terms heard when shopping for a connection.

    Broadband is a term that was used to name an Internet service that is much faster than the fastest 56K dial–up connection. DSL or digital subscriber line and cable are two technologies that are needed to get the broadband Internet. Thus, all DSL connections are broadband. However, not all broadband connections are DSL. Broadband connections can be either DSL or cable.

    Broadband can be received via many more technologies; however, DSL and cable are the most common home technologies used around the world. Cable Internet serves about sixty-one per cent and DSL serves about thirty-nine per cent of the US household Internet market.

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    Differences Between The Two

    The main difference between DSL and broadband via cable services are speed, availability, price, security, installation, and performance.

    DSL is the slowest broadband service and the least expensive. The speed it offers is not more than 6 megabytes per second. Also, the further you stay from the ISP’s office, slower would be the connection. As compared to this, cable is much faster but is less reliable and more expensive. The speed advertised by cable service-givers is almost 30 megabytes per second. However, the speed of cable is dependent on the number of users logged on and the web traffic.

    It is also a good idea to check with the service providers. Many cable television service providers provide the internet service at a discount while others could combine the phone line and the connection. It is always a good idea to bulk up the services provided by a single service provider for best rates. DSL runs over existing copper pair of telephone wires whereas cable Internet just like cable television runs over a coaxial cable.

    DSL is widely available in cities but not in rural areas. It is important to check the service provider’s website for more details about their coverage. With cable, the availability is not a problem in most areas. Infact, almost twenty per cent of cable TV customers prefer to choose the cable Internet service.

    Both DSL and cable pass the general reliability test. However, cable turns to be more reliable than DSL in most cases. Since DSL is not available in all areas, its availability would have to be re-checked with the Internet service providers in the area. Cable Internet is available almost everywhere where there is a cable television connection.

    Both DSL and cable mean an ‘always on’ connection, making the connection susceptible to viruses and other attacks even when the Internet is not being used. A couple of years back DSL was much more difficult to install and set up as compared to the easy installation of the cable. However, nowadays self-installation of the DSL has also become simple and easy just like the cable connection.

    The argument whether DSL is better or cable is will never really be resolved as it differs from case to case. After evaluating the personal facts, criteria, and other factors, it is possible to decide which would be better. To conclude, no matter what Internet connection you decide to invest in, you are guaranteed a fast and comfortable Internet experience as compared to the dial-up.