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DSL Internet in the USA

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Digital Subscriber Line Internet In the United States


Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) is a "last mile" service that allows consumers to access the internet by using their existing telephone lines.

While both DSL and Dial-up internet leverage existing telephone lines, DSL uses a frequency that allows calls and data to be transfered at the same time without interference allowing for users to both talk on their phone and use the internet.

Most commonly "DSL" refers a Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, where the download and upload speeds are different though there are 14 different types of DSL service.

However the term DSL may also refer to VDSL2 (Very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line 2) which is the latest and fastest version of DSL that allows providers to offer integrated, HDTV, home phone and home broadband service all through one line.

To help you find the best provider, we've compiled a full list of all the DSL providers in the United States.

Should You Get DSL Internet?

While there are faster technologies available such as cable and fiber, DSL coverage is virtually everywhere. With that in mind, it can be a great solution to getting wired internet access, just make sure that the plan you sign up for supports you internet usage habits.


Large Coverage Area

Because the existing telephone infrastructure is available virtually everywhere in the continental United States, DSL it is one of the most widely available internet services in the United States.

Use Your Phone While on the Internet

While DSL isn't the fastest internet service available, it is a huge upgrade over dial-up, with the added benefit of being able to use your phone and your broadband connection at the same time.


Distance Sensitivity

One of the biggest drawbacks to DSL is that it even though it uses existing infrastructure, reliable service requires central offices to be placed relatively close (just over a mile) to where customers reside to receive optimum service.

Chances are if you don't have DSL service available in your area, it's because DSL providers haven't established a central office close enough to where you are.

Asymmetrical Data

Most DSL technologies use asymmetrical data transfer which means that consumers download speeds will be much faster than their upload speeds. While this isn't an issue for typical web browsing, doing any sort of transfer that requires substantial upload bandwidth (such as Skype, video gaming, and uploading Youtube videos) will be much slower than other technologies such as fiber or cable.

If in doubt whether a DSL plan you are considering is enough for Skype or other upload intensive programs, we recommend looking for upload speeds of at least 1mbps.

What is DSL broadband?

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is a broadband technology for delivering high-speed Internet to residences and businesses.

Similar to cable and fiber connections, DSL connections bridge the “last mile” between the mainstream Internet “backbone” and customer residences. DSL bridges this distance using an unlikely candidate: copper telephone lines. [1]

DSL connections bridge the last mile between the mainstream Internet and customer residences

DSL is often confused with dial up Internet, since both are delivered via telephone infrastructure. However, DSL is quite different on a technical level. (Aside from being several times faster than the 56kbits/second associated with dialup.) [2]

The biggest difference is that DSL is an “always on” connection, meaning that is doesn’t cut off landline access when in use. This is possible because it uses higher frequency bands within the telephone cable to deliver data, creating a separate “channel” from the low-frequency bands that phone communications travel by. [3]

What a DSL network looks like

In the simplest possible implementation, there are three major parts involved in getting data from the Internet “backbone” to your computer. The overall structure is like tin cans on a string: two sender/receivers connected by a wire.

DSL Network

The “can” on the customer’s side is a DSL modem, translating signal into data for the home network. The string is a telephone cable, which carries data in the form of electromagnetic signal. The “can” on the Internet provider’s side is a digital subscriber line access multiplexer (DSLAM), designed to route many connections at once and communicate with the Internet “backbone.” [4]

Real-world applications will vary and be a bit more complex, but the overall “can and string” concept is the same.

Parts of a DSL network

Parts of DSL Network
  • Copper phone line: Copper cable made by twisting two copper wires around one another, decreasing interference between the wires and repelling electromagnetic interference from outside.
  • DSL Modem: A device installed in a subscriber’s residence, designed to “translate” the electrical signal from the DSL provider into data for a computer or router.
  • DSLAM (digital subscriber line access multiplexer): Device that receives, decodes, and transmits electrical signals to many phone lines at once.
  • DSL Filter: A small device that plugs into a phone jack and separates low-frequency phone signal from high-frequency broadband signal.
  • Extender: Also called a “loop extender,” DSL extenders are placed between the DSLAM and subscriber modem to boost the signal within the copper cable, allowing signal to reach rural customers situated far from the local DSL office.

Anatomy of a copper telephone cable

Copper telephone cable has a very simple construction compared to other broadband cable technologies. Little has changed since Alexander Graham Bell created the first telephone cable: two copper wires twisted around each other inside a protective coating. [5]

Copper Telephone Cable Anatomy
Telephone wire cross section

Wires are “bundled” together in different ways for different applications and often color-coded, but the overall picture is the same: establishing direct connections between a residence and the DSL provider. [6]

Visualizing the “DSL highway”

DSL broadband is able to travel via copper telephone cables because data is transmitted via separate, higher frequency bands than those used by voice communication. This is similar to how radio and satellite communications divide the spectrum to deliver content — but rather than happening over the air, it’s happening within a wire. [7]

To visualize this, we can picture the DSL cable as a highway. The “lane” for traditional telephone traffic is only 4Khz wide — but the width of the highway is about 3000 times wider than that, stretching all the way up to about 12,000Khz. [8]

DSL Highway

While this is “narrower” than the frequencies possible in a fiber or coaxial broadband connection, it still allows for quite a bit of flexibility in transmitting data.

Dividing the DSL cable: ADSL vs VDSL

While the “highway” of frequency bands DSL uses is relatively wide, not all DSL technologies can use the whole spectrum.

There are 14 different types of DSL service, with differences in protocols, configuration and transmission methods. The two that matter most are ADSL and VDSL.


ADSL stands for “asynchronous digital subscriber line.” The term “asynchronous” is used because much more bandwidth is allocated for downstream data than upstream data. The ADSL specification has evolved over time, with the latest upgrades called ADSL2 and ADSL2+. While ADSL and ADSL2 use the spectrum band from 25Khz to 1.1Mhz, ADSL2+ uses twice as much, stretching all the way up to 2.2Mhz. ADSL can theoretically achieve speeds of 24Mbps down and 3.3Mbps up, but real-world applications are usually a fraction of that. [9]

VDSL, or “very-high-bit-rate digital subscriber line,” uses advanced modulation and transmission hardware to utilize even higher frequency bands, from 25Khz all the way up to 12Mhz. This allows VDSL to achieve speeds of 300Mbps down, 100Mbps up. This theoretical capability quickly lowers in real-world settings, however, for subscribers farther away from the ISP’s local office. [10]

Pros and Cons of DSL broadband


  • Widely available via traditional phone infrastructure
  • Affordably priced compared to cable, fiber, and fixed wireless
  • Direct connection from residence to ISP prevents peak-use slowdown


  • Generally provides lower speeds than other broadband technologies
  • Connection quality dependant on distance between residence and ISP
  • Above-ground cabling susceptible to disruption from storms

Largest DSL Providers

51.07% Coverage
AT&T Internet
37.94% Coverage
15.23% Coverage
Verizon High Speed Internet
15.18% Coverage
Frontier Communications
9.43% Coverage
4.24% Coverage
2.54% Coverage

States with the most DSL coverage

98.4% Coverage
97.3% Coverage
96.3% Coverage
95.8% Coverage
New Hampshire
95.6% Coverage
95.5% Coverage
94.4% Coverage

DSL Providers: Availability by State

Alabama 4,206,520 85.7% 51 DSL Providers
Alaska 518,149 69.2% 21 DSL Providers
American Samoa 48,732 89.4% 2 DSL Providers
Arizona 6,211,206 90.5% 42 DSL Providers
Arkansas 2,617,170 86.8% 33 DSL Providers
California 36,001,079 93.1% 62 DSL Providers
Colorado 5,017,611 94.1% 59 DSL Providers
Connecticut 3,479,771 95.8% 26 DSL Providers
Delaware 668,097 71.0% 14 DSL Providers
District of Columbia 584,015 93.6% 19 DSL Providers
Florida 18,689,343 94.0% 44 DSL Providers
Georgia 9,392,400 91.4% 61 DSL Providers
Guam 158,382 98.4% 2 DSL Providers
Hawaii 1,322,432 93.1% 7 DSL Providers
Idaho 1,505,477 90.1% 33 DSL Providers
Illinois 12,064,185 92.9% 90 DSL Providers
Indiana 5,983,708 90.1% 67 DSL Providers
Iowa 2,710,965 87.5% 139 DSL Providers
Kansas 2,509,104 85.8% 48 DSL Providers
Kentucky 3,823,615 85.7% 43 DSL Providers
Louisiana 3,936,126 85.7% 30 DSL Providers
Maine 1,283,192 95.5% 29 DSL Providers
Maryland 4,566,650 76.5% 30 DSL Providers
Massachusetts 5,941,012 89.5% 26 DSL Providers
Michigan 8,943,287 90.9% 70 DSL Providers
Minnesota 5,013,557 91.9% 93 DSL Providers
Mississippi 2,544,947 84.4% 34 DSL Providers
Missouri 5,501,650 89.7% 71 DSL Providers
Montana 942,616 91.9% 28 DSL Providers
Nebraska 1,623,481 86.5% 54 DSL Providers
Nevada 2,735,235 93.1% 35 DSL Providers
New Hampshire 1,281,838 95.6% 21 DSL Providers
New Jersey 7,622,411 85.3% 33 DSL Providers
New Mexico 1,991,297 92.2% 35 DSL Providers
New York 17,823,769 91.1% 57 DSL Providers
North Carolina 9,438,456 93.3% 47 DSL Providers
North Dakota 477,372 68.9% 31 DSL Providers
Northern Mariana Islands 32,087 62.4% 1 DSL Providers
Ohio 10,512,943 90.6% 57 DSL Providers
Oklahoma 3,326,651 85.6% 53 DSL Providers
Oregon 3,667,013 91.8% 64 DSL Providers
Pennsylvania 10,597,368 82.3% 66 DSL Providers
Puerto Rico 1,801,157 49.8% 4 DSL Providers
Rhode Island 849,000 80.8% 14 DSL Providers
South Carolina 4,267,440 87.6% 32 DSL Providers
South Dakota 651,302 77.4% 36 DSL Providers
Tennessee 5,842,849 88.4% 49 DSL Providers
Texas 23,709,954 87.9% 105 DSL Providers
Utah 2,873,448 96.3% 40 DSL Providers
Vermont 614,413 97.3% 18 DSL Providers
Virgin Islands 60,492 58.2% 2 DSL Providers
Virginia 6,688,162 79.9% 47 DSL Providers
Washington 6,677,862 94.4% 52 DSL Providers
West Virginia 1,656,709 88.4% 15 DSL Providers
Wisconsin 5,269,710 90.7% 96 DSL Providers
Wyoming 508,835 86.0% 24 DSL Providers