DSL vs. Cable Modem Comparison

Both offer advantages to the home and small business customer

Man using laptop indoors
David Lees/Digital Vision/Getty Images

This tutorial will help you understand the practical differences between DSL and cable modem networking. While similar in many respects, DSL and cable Internet services differ in several fundamental ways.

DSL and Cable - Comparison and Contrast

When evaluating cable and DSL services, you should consider the following:

  • Speed (advantage - Cable): Cable boasts faster speed than DSL Internet in theory. However, cable does not always deliver on the promise in everyday practical use.
  • Popularity (advantage - Both): In the U.S., cable Internet enjoys significantly greater popularity than DSL, although DSL has been closing the gap recently. Outside the U.S., DSL continues to hold the edge. Both dominate the rest of the competition with millions of subscribers to each.
  • Customer Satisfaction (advantage - DSL): Even if a technology is popular, customers may be unhappy with it whether due to cost, reliability or other factors. Indeed, in the U.S. cable services generally rate lower than DSL in customer surveys.
  • Security (advantage - Both): Cable and DSL implement different network security models. Historically, more concerns have existed with cable security, although cable providers have definitely taken steps to improve security over the past few years. It's likely both DSL and cable are "secure enough" for most people's needs.

Note About DSL and Cable Service Providers

Both DSL and cable high-speed Internet services are available to millions of residential and business consumers worldwide.

In some areas, only one service is available. Others have a choice.

Some of the differences between DSL and cable modem originate not with the technology itself but rather with the service provider. All other things being equal, factors like cost, reliability, ​and quality of customer support for installation and maintenance issues can vary significantly from one provider to the next.