Clearing up some misconceptions about DSL, which everyone seems to hate.

**I just noticed that the FAQ “Internet Requirements Guide” says DSL is not acceptable for streaming HD, which is nonsense. I’ve been a cord-cutter using DSL since 2010, and I’m not even trying hard. I’d like to get that updated, if possible.**

**People say: “DSL is too slow for cord-cutters”**

Maybe, but not definitely, and it depends. Don’t skip over looking at it, especially if your cable company is expensive, limiting, or making you furious.

The most common DSL service in the US is **ADSL** (or ADSL2+), which maxes out at 24 Mbps down and 3.3 up. And, that speed starts to degrade the farther you get from wherever the node is.

ADSL down to 15 Mbps still might be a good option for people that max out with a 1-2 streams of HD video. My family was using 20 Mbps ADSL internet up until 2017, and I don’t remember ever having an issue with bandwidth, and we game, stream video, wifi calling, video calls, everything.

It’s not true that everyone needs 50+ mbps for streaming video. That’s a sales tactic. A 1080p Netflix/Hulu stream is only 4.3-5.8 mbps.

But **VDSL** (and VDSL2) is a newer technology that is getting more widespread, and we recently upgraded to it for $40/month unlimited. It can transmit up to 100Mbps close to the source. The speed degradation still happens over distances, but it can maintain 40Mbps and up at pretty good suburban distances.

~~Sadly, anything slower than ADSL at 15 mbps is probably not going to cut it.~~ Updated: People are saying 5-15 mbps is fine for some cord-cutting users. Obviously, you are hitting the top end more often at slower speeds, but 720p Netflix maxes out at 3 mbps for a single stream, so it is possible.

**But Cable is a direct line, and DSL is shared with neighbors**

I hear this all the time, which is odd, because it’s technically not as true for DSL as it is for cable, but maybe it has the *appearance* of being true for DSL in your area?

DSL is a direct connection from your home to a node, which then connects upstream to the central office and the backbone using a larger pipe. That twisted pair connection from the large pipe to your house is the “last mile”, and on DSL, it’s dedicated to your house.

Cable is not a direct line from your house to the last-mile node. But, the big copper cable wires can sustain a lot more bandwidth in total, so it may not be noticeable that you’re sharing it with your neighbors.

Any node can be a bottleneck and it really depends on how oversubscribed your local area’s is, cable or DSL. I’ve never noticeably had any issues.

16 Replies to “Clearing up some misconceptions about DSL, which everyone seems to hate.”

  1. A friend has classic ADSL that ends up doing 5 mbps. HD streams look fine on it. Most such streams are only 6-7 mbps max.

  2. DSL is not so bad. I lived with it for many years, enjoying Netflix from the day they started streaming. Yes, DSL can get bad in rural areas, but if you are no more than 2 or 3 miles from the nearest central office, it works just fine.

  3. I’ve had DSL for over 15 years and never had any problems until recently. Two or three years ago, I think I had 150mbs down with AT&T and I began noticing more problems. I think it was an AT&T issue with management of their service. A year ago I moved and AT&T only offered 25mbs down in my new neighborhood. Even so, I’m usually able to stream 2 feeds with no problem, which I do all the time.

    Having said that, I do have a couple of problems. One is that I often lose my internet connection, which I believe is caused by AT&T upgrading the neighborhood to fiber (it’s taking way to long, also). We also have several smart devices that cause trouble sometimes. Mainly, our security cams upload video to an internet server, and whenever they’re activated, our TVs begin buffering. Hopefully we’ll have fiber soon and this will no longer be a problem, or I’ll switch to Comcast.

    The point of this is that even a 25mbs down connection is good enough for 2 streams, but it’s not good enough if you have other stuff using a lot of data. If you have, or plan, to install Nest or Ring cameras, for example.

  4. In my town I’ve had both cable and DSL. Both were a 25Mpbs plan, my current DSL speeds are close to 40.

    Actual cable speed was One. 1Mbps. One.

    So yeah, happy DSL customer here

  5. Old DSL with a max of 8mbps would be a problem but I spent 3 years with ADSL at 12mbps (max 24 in theory) and it was fine for cord cutting. Granted it was just my gf and I but it was fine.

    Bigger issue was trying to upload anything on that day 1mbps upload

  6. I live in a rural area (Western NC) and DSL is the prominent type of broadband connection. There are a few, small areas that have access to fiber via one of the local power co-ops (me being one of them). The issue with DSL around here isn’t oversubscribing. It’s a combination of the underlying copper in the POTS being so old and not being maintained very well. When I had DSL, the MAX that the ISP even provided was 1.5/768. It would routinely go out for a week or more at a time, and customer service was lackadaisical at best about resolving the issue.

  7. If you are getting 3-5 mbps you whould be able to stream fine. I know because I used to use a 3mbps dsl connection. I have about 12 mbps connection now with dsl but this area is currently being upgrade to FTTH but honestly whatever speed you have is whatever speed you have whether it’s dsl or FTTH. You have to be careful with techie people you would think they would probably be smart but not always. It is not the first bit of nonsense I have heard spewed lol.

  8. I have DSL and have absolutely no issues in day to day usage.

    The only downfall, for me, is that Steam gimps my download speed to 2.5mbps by default and I can’t find a work around.

    99% of stuff that we watch is streamed flawlessly. The other 1% is OTA local news.

  9. I think you need to highlight one of the biggest cons of DSL in comparison to cable/broadband internet with regards to the degradation of signal and distance. I know you glossed over this part, but it’s a much larger challenge that should be discussed.

    DSL, by default, will not maintain the same advertised bandwidth “speed” depending on how far you’re located from the “box/node” and no matter how much bandwidth you pay for. If the box is 100ft from your house, then you will (well should) get the advertised bandwidth you pay for. However, if you’re 1 mile from the “box/node,” then you’ll never get the advertised bandwidth because DSL technology is absolutely limited by distance. The further out you are, the less bandwidth/speed you receive. 100ft out will receive higher bandwidth than those at 200ft out, 300ft out, and so on.

    Cable/broadband internet does not have this issue. As long you’re located within the maximum area for the broadband technology you pay for (cable or fiber), then you’ll continue to receive the same broadband “speed” regardless. The con with cable internet, as mentioned before by OP, is that you “share” your connection with your neighbors in terms of aggregate bandwidth. In other words, your bandwidth will be slower in the mornings and nights because that’s when your neighbors are home and using their internet. DSL does not share the bandwidth, so it doesn’t run into this issue.

    The other issue with DSL is that it’s inherently “slower” than cable or fiber based on the technologies behind them. DSL will never reach the theoretical max bandwidth of cable or fiber because the physical wiring used in DSL solutions cannot accommodate those “speeds.”

    For a lot of folks, DSL is the only real option when it comes to higher bandwidth internet and that’s ok. However, if you have the choice between DSL and cable, then cable internet is almost universally recommended because of the above mentioned points.

  10. Up until last week I had an old cable internet package that capped out at like 20 mbps. Didn’t have much trouble streaming, having 2 multiplayer games going, and sometimes also streaming a second device and playing a tablet server game.

  11. I have Centurylink 40MegaBit line. It provides a steady 35+ and my wife streams 4k content with zero troubles (even when I am playing online game at the same time.

    The DSL was a backup to my main cable connection (failover) but it works so well I ended up using it for two of the closest streaming TVs. Ping is sub 10ms which is amazing, and I swear it is much better for voip calls.

    Now I am lucky to have fiber to the DSLAM and only 850 feet from the DSLAM, but the tech said almost everybody is getting the same numbers in the development.

  12. The main thing that is a limiting factor for speed in a DSL area has to do with the material the supply lines are made of. Copper for example is going to result is some nasty limitations (in my area, the. Upper limit is 10 megabit/sec but 3 is typical with rain causing it to be as low as 512 kilobit/sec with unusable ping) If the area is supplied with fiber lines, then the speeds achievable are going to be way higher.

  13. i use crappy DSL from ATT. the only problem is when streaming live during peak time when the pic is degraded or it freezes. but you just press Esc and go back and it works again. it happens sometimes but not all the times. and its tolerable in my standard.

    other than live streaming, i have no problem with DSL

  14. The problem is (at least in my use case) that I don’t just use the connection with a single access point at once. Ill be downloading something on my computer, watching Netflix, and likely browsing Reddit all at once. So that’ll tie up the bandwidth very quick.

    I suppose you can sacrifice that convenience with a little bit of effort, sorta like turning the lights off and raising your thermostat to save energy. But idk if the majority of people want to do that to save a few bucks a month.

    I also figure if you have unlimited data on your phone, you can make it work. But then you’re likely overpaying for data…

  15. I can only speak to my own experiences with VDSL, but it wasn’t good. AT&T sold it to me promising “up to” 45Mbps, but speed tests usually showed closer to 30Mbps, and anything I streamed seemed to be far worse than even 30Mbps would indicate. Tons of buffering, stuttering, etc. on a variety of services, even running at 1080p or 720p. The only video I was able to get consistently? U-Verse, of course. I really don’t recommend it.

  16. All I know is a stayed at a $200/night luxury hotel in small town USA and top speed was 7mbps according to my Roku. I called tech support # because I had an fully pinning excellent signal. Then I realized it was DSL. Family in the next town barely gets over 10mbps on average.

    There’s nothing that can be said to win those that have broadband when comparing to old days of DSL. Lol!

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