DSL internet is not necessarily the best or preferred option for anyone in the United States as of 2022. Yet that doesn’t mean that it isn’t around, and it doesn’t mean that some people don’t have many other choices.
This might seem like a problem or a downer. Yet not all DSL providers are equal, and not all plans from DSL providers are equal. Some might feel completely unusable, while others might be fine for basic web surfing and even some streaming. And while your expectations should not be high, there have been major improvements to DSL internet infrastructure and connections since DSL first came on the market. It is possible to reach speeds of 100Mbps, although this might be relatively rare. Simply said, it is possible to get a decent internet connection from a DSL internet provider, you just will need to do some homework first and be a little lucky.
Keep on reading about what you can expect from DSL service providers and the best ones operating in the United States:
What to Expect from DSL Service
Before you look at specific providers, you should have a general idea of what DSL internet can do. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of DSL service?
• You can expect relatively low prices for your internet service. While the price per Mb of download speed will be quite high, you will not be paying as much as you would with a much faster connection or a different connection type. It’s quite possible that you will be paying at most $50 a month for internet service, which is a great price for people who do not use it much. And while some DSL carriers will overcharge, and you might not have a choice because they have an effective monopoly in your area, such instances are becoming rarer.
• While this is less of a personal advantage and more of a general one, DSL internet is widely available. It can reach tens of millions more people in the United States than other internet service types and uses lines available in those areas. Cable is pretty widespread but not everywhere, and fiber internet is generally restricted to more populous or urban areas.
• DSL internet is relatively easy to set up and will likely not run into too many technical complications. Don’t expect to need to install a whole bunch of extra equipment or do a lot of rewiring for it.
• DSL service is not the fastest option and will never be the fastest option overall. Fiber internet technology is superior, and cable internet, in nearly all cases, can provide a better connection and faster download speeds. The most you can expect from a DSL connection is a 100Mbps download speed. And this is fine, but it is rarely available, with lower speeds often being the only choice.
• Specifically, your location will heavily affect your download speed, among other things. DSL connections degrade over long distances from the transmitting station. That means one person close to the station can have a 100Mbps connection, while someone far away might only be able to get a plan that is 20Mbps. While this is not ideal, this is the reality of the situation, and it might mean that depending on where the transmitting stations are, one DSL provider can offer a much better plan than another for an equivalent price, assuming they are competing in the same area.
• Download speeds aren’t everything when it comes to general internet service quality. Upload speed also matters a great deal, and to some people much more than others. And DSL, unfortunately, fails when it comes to providing good upload speeds. As you’ll see with some of the plans we mention, it might not be enough for you.
• And when it comes to latency, you might experience speeds that are faster than satellite or dial-up, but that’s a small consolation. Expect somewhere between 10 and 70ms for a ping rate. This is fine for most activities, but cable and fiber internet do have a faster ping rate on average.
• We’ll discuss with some providers that the speeds will drop off based on proximity. The further away you are from a provider, the slower your speeds will be.
• The companies that offer DSL internet are often the same companies that offer cable and fiber internet. That means that customer service is often unaffected, for better or for worse. In general, service is improving across the industry, but there are still some ways to go before we can say that ISPs, in general, provide great customer service.
The 7 Best DSL Providers
Everyone will have different service providers available to them. In truth, while we hope there are seven DSL service providers in your area, many people might only have two to four providers available, including satellite providers.
While not all might not be in your area, be on the lookout for them and the plans on offer. These seven providers are the best we can find and are among the most popular and widespread in the United States. These also aren’t in any specific order, as different people will have different needs from their internet service provider and different preferences about what they want from their plan.
It perhaps comes as no surprise that a well-known phone service provider would be able to help people acquire DSL internet. AT&T is one of the country's largest providers of DSL service, if not the largest. Operating mostly in Southern states and some Midwestern states, it covers more than 100 million people and will continue to do so for some time. It offers Fiber and DSL service to millions of people, which is available to you and will likely depend on where you live (about 63 percent of connections from AT&T were DSL).
In general, AT&T might be considered the default for DSL plans and providers, offering slightly above-average prices for service that will depend on your location. There is little to complain about on an extreme level, though, as with all DSL providers, results may vary.
Some important notes and features regarding AT&T DSL Internet:
• AT&T offers more plans for DSL service than nearly any other provider. Depending on your area, you might see the following:
• AT&T Fixed Wireless offers 10 Mbps download speed, and 1 Mbps upload speed for $70 per month. There is a 350GB data cap
• AT&T Internet 10 offers 10 Mbps download speed and 1 Mbps upload speed for $70 per month. There is a 1TB data cap.
• AT&T Internet 18 offers 18 Mbps download speed and 1 Mbps upload speed for $70 per month. There is a 1TB data cap.
• AT&T Internet 25 offers 25 Mbps download speed and 2 Mbps upload speed for $70 per month. There is a 1TB data cap.
• AT&T Internet 50 offers 50 Mbps download speed and 100 Mbps upload speed for $70 per month. There is a 1TB data cap.
• AT&T Internet 100 offers 100 Mbps download speed and 20 Mbps upload speed for $70 per month. There is a 1TB data cap.
• Additionally, there may be fiber internet options, which you should prioritize over any of the above, given that they are not necessarily more expensive and provide a better service.
• As you can see, most of these plans are priced exactly the same, so you just want to pick out the fastest available option. The price is very high for DSL internet, only potentially being worth it in the case of the AT&T Internet 100 plan. The prices mentioned are after the 12-month introductory rate. It might be too much for many people, but AT&T might also be the only option, so weigh your situation carefully.
• Most concerningly, AT&T has awful numbers when it comes to upload speeds. You might be able to get away with a 10-25Mbps download speed depending on what you are doing, but a 1Mbps upload speed is practically useless and will leave you unable to make many stable video calls, among other things.
• A good thing about AT&T is that no contracts are required for standalone internet service as of this writing. There is a promotional rate for the first 12 months, but that doesn’t lock you into anything. However, things change if you get a bundle, so be careful about that.
• For DSL service and service in general, AT&T gets above-average marks for customer service. This is a good thing considering that quite a few people have issues with DSL internet or want to know more about their options. It’s not perfect by any means, but it does stand out compared to other DSL service providers.
Given its popularity, AT&T has something to offer many potential customers. Check to see if their service or bundles work for you, and make comparisons to the other providers listed below if they are in your area.
Primarily known as a cable TV service provider to most people, CenturyLink is one of the other most popular DSL service providers nonetheless and an ISP that provides services to millions of people. They are known for their Price for Life deal, generally reasonable prices, and a fair bit of business service as well.
However, it should be noted that CenturyLink’s service might be moved over to Brightspeed in about 20 states, depending on when you read this. Yet that isn’t finalized as of this writing, so therefore CenturyLink is still one of the most widely available options for internet customers in the United States.
Some important notes and features regarding CenturyLink DSL Internet:
• You can expect the following potential plans from CenturyLink. However, note that CenturyLink often limits what plans are available in areas. You might only have one or two choices depending on where you live.
• The Price for Life 20 Plan with 20Mbps download speed and 2 Mbps upload speed for $50.
• The Price for Life 40 Plan with 40Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed for $50.
• The Price for Life 60 Plan with 60Mbps download speed and 5 Mbps upload speed for $50.
• The Price for Life 80 Plan with 80 Mbps download speed and 10 Mbps upload speed for $50.
• The Price for Life 100 Plan with 100 Mbps download speed and 12 Mbps upload speed for $50.
• Depending on your location, you might also see Quantum Fiber plans, which are effectively the fiber internet offshoot of CenturyLink. These are by far the superior option, and you should look at them first, but they will not be available everywhere.
• Much like AT&T, there does not seem to be much difference in the pricing between the plans, so you will want to select the best one (often the only one) offered in your area if CenturyLink is the DSL provider for you. And similarly again to AT&T, some of these plans might be ok for you, and others might not be enough or have too low an upload speed to be to your preference. This results in the dropoff of service quality based on distance.
• The “Price for Life” in the plan means that there are no changes in your price so long as you stick. Realistically this isn’t as groundbreaking for people as it could be, as people will likely move or want to switch to a different provider before it becomes extremely relevant. Nonetheless, it is a nice reassurance for people who might not feel the need to change plans for the next decade.
• One great thing is that there is no data cap on any of their plans. Compared to many other providers with a cap of 1TB or less, people who like to download many files can queue up their plans for the night and let the connection download while they sleep. On the faster 80 and 100Mbps plans, this is especially nice.
• You will also find that with each of their plans, there is a $15 per month optional equipment rental fee if you don’t want to use your own equipment. If you plan on sticking with CenturyLink for any length of time and have the money to spare up-front, we recommend that you get a decent modem/router setup of your own, as it will save you money in the long run and likely perform better.
• CenturyLink has a middling score when it comes to customer service and customer satisfaction. It is also on the decline as of the last numbers, which might be concerning to some.
You will have to see what else is in your area and what service plan is available to you to determine if CenturyLink is the right option for you. It might not set any records, but being widely available, it might be the option for people who just want basic internet service to get them through their day.
3. Consolidated Communications
Consolidated Communications is a bit of a mouthful when it comes to internet service names, but you might be familiar with them depending on where you live. Despite that, they are hardly the most popular service provider or the one that does the most marketing. They get their business by being available and don’t put too much into their marketing efforts compared to the big names. Nonetheless, they are a service provider like any other and will meet the needs of potentially millions of customers. Therefore, if you’re seeking service, you should know about them.
To sum up general thoughts about them quickly, Consolidated Communications has a reputation for decent enough internet, horrible customer service, and cheap prices for service. It is a tradeoff you’ll need to weigh for yourself, and you shouldn’t feel bad if you want to switch providers quickly after trying them out. You just might have difficulty getting away from them if some reports are to be believed.
Some important notes and features regarding Consolidated Communications DSL Internet:
• You can expect the following plans from Consolidated Communications:
• A “FAST” package that costs around $22 per month and has a 6-20Mbps download speed. It is simple and not great for heavy streaming or anything like that.
• A “FASTER” package that offers between 50-100Mbps download speeds and costs about $47 per month.
• Consolidated Communications is expanding to offer fiber service in a number of states, though the overlap between DSL service and fiber service is not all that much. There’s a strong chance you’ll have only DSL to work with. However, if fiber is available, strongly consider it.
• Note that the prices listed above do not necessarily include fees, taxes, or additional charges, so the low prices seen above might not be as extremely competitive as they could be, although they will likely be cheaper than other options.
• Note that, like with many DSL providers, speeds can vary within plans depending on your location. You might find that you could get speeds above 100 Mbps, but these might not be fully consistent or regularly available. Upload speeds will likely be quite low and vary, as is the norm for DSL internet.
• People are generally unsatisfied with Consolidated Communications, and a few quick searches will tell you that. People regularly say that working with them was terrible, their practices were terrible, and they wanted out quickly. They might be the only option available in some areas, but even then, some people would prefer to work with satellite internet. This is concerning for us, though other people will have different experiences.
Consolidated communications will not be for everyone, but quite possibly, one of their plans will be the best (or only) choice for you. Check to see what speed they can offer in your area and how people around you have found their service.
4. Kinetic (Windstream)
Kinetic, or Kinetic by Windstream, depending on how it's advertised, is one of the more interesting options available and might be available to many people living in rural areas. Kinetic is often the best choice in these rural areas, but note that this doesn’t mean it is overall fast or the cheapest option. However, there are perks and options from Kinetic that you should know about.
Some important notes and features regarding Kinetic (Windstream) DSL Internet:
- People with Kinetic available will see just one DSL plan if any. It is the Kinetic 50 plan, and it has a 50Mbps download speed and a varying upload speed. It will cost $55-$85 after the first 12 months. This is a perfectly sufficient plan depending on the upload speed and can serve the average user's needs just fine, if not a full household of users. There are better options, which can be expensive, but if Kinetic is your only option, you could do much worse.
- However, it should be noted that in some areas, the Kinetic plan is actually slower than 50Mbps, though you’ll be paying about the same price range. If it dips below 15 Mbps, as it might in some areas, it might not really be enough of a connection to rely on. Speed tests and reports from people in your area will be your friend here.
• You may also see two differing fiber plans available, which we would recommend before the Kinetic 50 plan. However, they are not as widely available.
• Kinetic has the advantage of having no data cap on its services. If you have a good connection, you can download what you would like without worrying about going over your limit and running into throttling or extra fees.
• Speaking of fees and extra costs, Kinetic doesn’t have too much to worry about in terms of those costs that quickly add up. An equipment rental fee is $7-$10, but that is about it. There is also an activation fee, but you can get that back and then some if you order your service online.
• Regarding customer services and customer satisfaction, despite some of the benefits that Kinetic provides, there is a general trend that indicates that people aren’t the happiest with the service or customer service they are getting. In general, users are unsatisfied, and Kinetic is below average. This is despite its reputation for providing what other providers cannot. We suspect that the people who have to contact customer service or need technical help run into issues.
While Kinetic might not stand out too much based on the information above, note that the locations available provide context. Rural readers will want to look closely at them and see if they are available. Additionally, they can at least provide broadband speeds over much of their coverage area. This is yet another provider you’ll want to compare should you find it available.
Frontier will be another provider that gets a lot more attention for their fiber service than their DSL service. However, you should still pay attention to all of their offerings, and the company is one of the United States’ largest providers. Coverage generally is in states around the Great Lakes, West Virginia, and Connecticut. However, there are select areas of availability in other states as well, so keep on the lookout.
Frontier also has gotten into trouble regarding internet speeds, with the FTC alleging that the company misrepresented speeds to customers and later got a fine from the FTC. This doesn’t instill confidence, but it gives hope that what you will see in the future will be accurate, especially regarding their DSL speeds, which are variable.
Some important notes and features regarding Frontier DSL Internet:
• Frontier Internet, which starts at $55 per month for the first year, is the only DSL plan. There may or may not be a price increase after that. As of this writing, there is no guarantee either way. You might want to know about the differences in speed, but they can range from extremely slow to just a bit over 100Mbps.
• Frontier Internet speeds can vary quite a bit; unfortunately, most connections (almost two-thirds) are slower than 25Mbps. Only about 10 percent of potential addresses can get 100Mbps service. Frontier might not be the best option unless you can get a faster connection from them. Upload speeds are terrible across the board, ranging from 1Mbps to 3Mbps, no matter where you are. This will be unacceptable to many people.
• In addition to the Frontier Internet option, you might see Frontier Fiber as an option in your area. As with most providers, we strongly recommend you use a fiber plan instead of a DSL one. It is always better and is often at no extra expense. In the case of Frontier, it is like night and day.
• However, one common consensus across customer and professional reviews is that the service is not as good as it could be and is sometimes a bit spotty. Everyone will have a different experience when it comes to internet service, but the odds are good for you.
• There are no contract requirements for signing up for a Frontier plan. Most people, when they sign up, will be able to cancel at any time.
• There are no equipment fees when you sign up for Frontier Internet.
It should also be noted that Frontier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020, though the company intends to continue service and the average customer seems to have not been affected by this. As of 2021, the company seemed relatively financially healthy and plans to expand.
One of the most well-known companies on this list and a telecommunications giant, Verizon, and telecommunications services are practically synonymous. There could be a lot to discuss, but we will discuss Verizon DSL services here.
It is an interesting DSL plan to discuss because it can hardly be called one of the best, given the available speeds. Nonetheless, it is one of the most widespread and likely one of the ones you are most likely to encounter. This means that you should at least know about it and know what the advantages and disadvantages are.
Some important notes and features regarding Verizon DSL Internet:
• There is only one general plan from Verizon for DSL internet. Based on the latest information, this is the Verizon High-Speed Internet plan, which costs $75 per month. It offers a download speed of 1-15Mbps and an upload speed of 1Mbps. Unfortunately, this is terrible, and most people will not be able to use it in their everyday lives. They might be able to check their email and a few social media pages, but that’s about it.
• There is no data plan with the Verizon DSL plan, which is good. However, speeds are so low that you’d be hard-pressed to run into any cap you would see from other providers anyhow. It is a moot point.
• The other good news is that there is no contract requirement from Verizon. A $50 equipment charge takes place once, but it can be skipped in the right circumstances. If you find a better option or want to switch providers, there won’t be as big a hassle to do so.
• There is an activation fee of $30. This will be waived if you order online.
• Customer service responses are an interesting mix. While Verizon generally gets high grades, much of that comes from their Verizon Fios fiber internet plans. If you just look at responses for DSL internet, it becomes more mixed. We recommend checking customer reviews written in your immediate area.
• You might also see Verizon Fios available in your area. If you see this, we strongly encourage you to try it out, as it has some of the best reviews in the industry at a decent price. It is an absolutely different thing from other Verizon internet options. You may also find 5G home internet plans, which could be better than DSL if harder to find.
While the above might not spell the “best” DSL provider, there are some benefits, and you might not have many other options than satellite internet. React and judge accordingly.
EarthLink doesn’t have much on its own. As a general rule, it sells internet based on the infrastructures of other providers such as AT&T, CenturyLink, and more. This means it doesn’t have anything over those providers, but it is widely available and has a huge coverage area compared to other ISPs. And while it offers fiber optic service, a lot of what it is known for is its DSL service.
This wide availability leads to higher prices, however, so EarthLink might be a decent choice but rarely should it be your first choice unless other providers offer lower speeds or a much worse deal. This is one of those ISPs you’ll want to go over carefully.
Some important notes and features regarding EarthLink DSL Internet:
• You can expect some of the following DSL plans from EarthLink:
• The 12 Mbps plan starts at $55/mo. It has 12 Mbps download, and 1 Mbps upload speed.
• The 24 Mbps plan starts at $60/mo. It has 12 Mbps download, and 3 Mbps upload speed.
• The 45 Mbps plan starts at $65/mo. It has 12 Mbps download, and 6 Mbps upload speed.
• The 75 Mbps plan starts at $70/mo. It has 75 Mbps download, and 8 Mbps upload speed.
• There may be plans for other service types available. In general, we recommend those before the DSL plans listed above.
• Looking at the above, the pricing isn’t all that impressive, and neither are the upload speeds. The price differences between the plans are also minimal, so we recommend getting the fastest plan available to you. There might also be some slight differences in speed within the differently priced options, depending on your location relative to the transmission point. Try to see what other people around you are saying or have available.
• There is another thing you should know about Earthlink plans: they all have a 12-month contract to start with. A potentially $200 early termination fee is attached to this, so make sure you know that EarthLink is what you want before committing.
• Despite the commitment, they do seem to treat their customers rather well. People are generally satisfied with their service, and customer service has a decent reputation if not a great one. It is a step above most of its competitors.
• One good thing is that there are no data caps for you to worry about with an EarthLink plan. Assuming you have the download speed to actually consider downloading files regularly, you can download and stream however much you like.
Generally, if you have a choice between providers, EarthLink is not where you want to start out from. However, check to see if they have a fast plan near you and whether the price point is satisfactory.
Look at Smaller Providers
On top of the options listed above, which are generally the best and most widely available in the country, there may be other providers. They may operate regionally or even locally to provide DSL internet service. You might see local ads for them or hear about them from people who live in your area.
That being said, don’t assume that these smaller providers are better or can provide a better deal. If they were universally better and could attract so many customers, they probably would be larger than they are or be notable for their growth. Simply compare the options with no bias and pick the option that’s best for you. And don’t be afraid to switch providers if you are not satisfied.
Tips for Getting the Most from Your Service
Given the speeds involved, it is important for you to do everything you can to make the most of your DSL internet. Here are a few things you can do to make your connection better, and your network operate the best it can:
• In nearly all circumstances, a wired connection with an ethernet cable will be better than a wireless connection. While you can’t realistically plug an ethernet cable into your smartphone, your laptop, desktop, and many other devices are an entirely different story. See if you can keep your modem and router near those devices to make a connection easy.
• Occasionally use a speed test to ensure you are getting the internet speeds you were promised. Note that while you rarely will get the full advertised speed, you should consistently get at least 80 percent of that. If you aren’t, then contact your ISP and ask what the issue is.
• Try to know what devices use bandwidth in your home and how much. Given the limited bandwidth of many DSL connections, it helps keep background downloads and processes to a minimum unless you know you won’t be using the internet then. Similarly, pre-downloading some files or media at optimal times might be better than waiting for them to stream at the moment.
• Occasionally check to make sure all your equipment is working properly. This includes devices connected to the internet, as some of them can get infected with malware that, among other things, can slow your connection.
You will generally want to do the same things you would for any internet connection. It is just that those tasks are more important here because there is less margin for error, and you will notice a slowdown much more readily.
DSL internet is interesting, with cable and fiber internet so widespread. Yet we hope that you have a better idea of what to look out for from providers and that you have narrowed down your preferences to a few options. Remember that you can use this site to tell you which providers are operating in your area and what plans might be available, so don’t hesitate to move forward with your plans now. We wish you the best of luck with your search and invite you to bookmark and return to this page as you feel the need.