Choose between cable or DSL Internet. What is better?

QUESTION: I’m moving to a new home where I can use DSL or Cable Internet service, so which is better?

REPLY: Getting a solid internet connection has become a vital resource for all of us, so doing your homework before you move should be on everyone’s checklist.

The main difference between these two services is how they physically connect you to the internet.

DSL, which stands for Digital Subscriber Line, uses traditional landline telephone wires while cable Internet providers have to run coaxial cables in the ground.

These coaxial cables were originally installed for cable TV services, but in the mid-1990s, technology to use the same cable for Internet services was introduced.

Advantages and disadvantages of DSL

The initial advantage of DSL was that it used something that virtually every household in the United States already had: a landline telephone line.

This eliminated the need for telephone companies to invest large sums of money in installing new infrastructure, but it also limited what they could offer.

In the past, DSL options started at a lower monthly cost with slower actual speeds depending on your home’s location, but those differences were starting to fade.

The distance between your home and one of the telephone company’s “connection desks” as well as the age of the wires in the ground play a huge role.

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If you’re moving to a newer development or a high-density area, there’s a good chance the phone company has installed newer wires or even fiber optics to overcome some of the limitations of older phone lines.

The further away you are from the actual connection, the slower the effective speed is, which is why they will ask for your address to determine the level of service available.

Advantages and disadvantages of cable

In general, cable Internet connections have offered higher peak speeds for the same price, but with more fluctuation in speeds depending on the time of day.

Shared connection for a given neighborhood means that using others can impact overall speeds, better known as congestion.

It would not be unusual for speeds to drop somewhat during high usage hours, depending on the density of users in your neighborhood and the age of the cable system.

A faulty cable connection inside your home can also decrease your speeds, so it’s important to check all connectors, especially in an older home.

Ask your neighbors what they use

Although cable companies have an estimated 70% market share, the actual “best option” is very location specific. Ask as many of your new neighbors as possible to see what they are using and if they are having any service issues.

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None of the vendors will respond to location specific issues, so there’s no better way to help you make the best decision.

Do not rent your equipment

Most Internet service providers will rent you the hardware to make the connection, which can range from $ 10 to $ 20 per month.

Unless you plan to stay there for a very long time, it pays to buy the equipment yourself as it usually pays for itself in a little over a year.

Sometimes the modem is separate from the Wi-Fi router and sometimes it is combined into one unit. Depending on the service provider and the equipment operating on their network, your results may vary.

Ken Colburn is Founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services, Ask any technical question to or on Twitter @TheDataDoc.

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