Cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) are the two most prevalent types of broadband Internet access. DSL uses a regular telephone line to create a high-speed digital link, while cable technology provides broadband access over the same line as cable television service. Cable has some advantages and disadvantages when compared to DSL and other Internet access options.
Cable connections are typically faster than DSL. Customers usually receive between four and seven mega bits per second (mbps) for downloading, and in some areas up to 12 mbps. DSL can provide up to six mbps in certain cases, but is limited by the Internet service provider (ISP) to about 1.5 mbps for downloading and lower speeds for uploading unless the customer pays extra.
Speed and Location
Cable data transmission speed is less dependent on the distance between the home cable connection and the location of the ISP when compared to DSL service. DSL customers who live far from a telephone hub have slower service than those living closer.
No Phone Line Required
A telephone line is not necessary for cable service, an advantage for an increasing number of people choosing to have a cell phone as their only telephone. Many cable providers also offer Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone service, allowing customers to make telephone calls over the Internet. This service is usually much cheaper than regular telephone service.
Cable connections do not have the service dropouts associated with wireless or satellite connections. Satellite service can be disrupted during bad weather or sunspot activity, and wireless service is affected by microwave ovens, cordless phones and other electronic equipment.
Cable connections are typically more expensive than DSL. As of 2009, DSL pricing for regular service was generally about half that of cable Internet. Cable Internet usually requires subscribing to cable television service, an additional expense for people not interested in cable TV.
Cable is usually not available in rural areas and often is not available even a short distance from city limits, because of the high cost to the provider of installing cable lines. Low-population areas may not be seen as cost-effective for recouping the cost of the infrastructure.
Cable connections are less secure than DSL because each subscriber shares cable lines with other people in the immediate area. A tech-savvy user can access neighbours' computers unless they have firewall software installed.