Speed, reliability, availability, affordability. There’s a lot to consider when selecting internet service for your home. Lots of options lead to lots of questions. And since every home is different, there’s more than one right answer.
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of popular internet services, from satellite to DSL.
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line)
DSL uses your telephone line to simultaneously deliver high-speed internet and home phone service.
- EASY SETUP. If you already have home phone service, there’s good news: DSL will use the same line. This makes installation a cinch.
- NO SHARING. Your personal telephone line runs straight to your home, so you your network will benefit from added speed and security.
- HOME PHONE. With the advent of mobile smartphones, landlines are no longer the only way to keep connected. It doesn’t make sense to purchase internet through a telephone network if you don’t want the phone service that comes along with it.
- LONG DISTANCE DROP-OFF. Connection strength decreases with distance. The further you are from your network provider, the slower your internet speeds.
With help from a cable modem, the coaxial cables that transmit sound and picture to your TV can also deliver broadband internet.
- STRONG SPEEDS. Cable delivers fast internet compared to DSL and dial-up.
- BUNDLE UP. Since your cable company can provide both TV and internet, you may be able to save by purchasing the two services together.
- COPPER CABLES. Copper coaxial cables conduct electricity, so they’re vulnerable to static, interference and power surges.
- SHARED BANDWIDTH. Since your cable line is shared by customers near you, connection speeds fluctuate based on internet traffic—so you may experience slowdowns during peak hours.
As the name suggests, satellite internet transmits signals back and forth from satellite dishes on earth to a geostationary satellite in space. The orbiting satellite acts as a bounce pad for data as it travels from your computer to your internet provider’s Network Operations Center.
- NATIONWIDE COVERAGE. Satellites bring internet access to remote and rural areas that don’t have a DSL, cable or fiber-optic connection.
- WIRE-FREE. Since satellite internet doesn’t use central telephone lines or shared cable systems, you’ll avoid problems that plague coaxial cables.
- SATELLITE INSTALLATION. This service requires installation of visible satellite dish on your property.
- Signals can be obscured when trees, buildings or storms block the path between your home’s satellite and the satellite 22,000 miles above earth.
- HIGH LATENCY. Compared to many hardwire connections, satellite speeds lag behind.
High-tech fiber-optic cords send pulses of light from the internet provider’s central office to your home receiver. Your home receiver then converts the signal into data your digital devices can understand.
- Most fiber-optic wires are encased in glass or plastic rather than copper. This means they’re water-resistant and virtually stormproof.
- SUPER-FAST. Your internet signal literally travels at the speed of light. Talk about top connection speeds.
- The glass tubes that protect your fiber-optic cables add an extra line of defense against security breaches.
- BETTER BANDWIDTH. Fiber optics deliver lots of bandwidth to support multiple web-enabled devices. More bandwidth means less buffering, faster speeds and better picture quality.
- POTENTIALLY PRICEY. Fiber-optic internet is new to the market, so upper-tier plans can be expensive compared to some other options.
- LIMITED AVAILIBILITY. Since fiber-optic internet networks are still expanding, certain cities may not have access to this service yet.
There’s more than one way to get online. Although the differences are nuanced, a full understanding of each type of internet technology will help you find the right service based on your budget, location and bandwidth needs. Your ideal internet service provider is out there—and you’re one step closer to a connection.