Broadband is a term that refers to any kind of continuous, high-speed Internet connection. DSL is a kind of broadband Internet, along with cable, satellite, fiber optics and wireless. The only kind of Internet connection that is not broadband is dial-up. Though all broadband is high-speed, each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Digital subscriber line is a broadband service that transmits data to computers using the telephone lines installed in a building. It is available in most urban areas but may not be available in rural areas. DSL tends to be the least expensive form of broadband Internet service, but it is also slower than some of the other connections available. Most DSL service requires users to have active landline telephone service, though freestanding DSL, which uses inactive phone lines, is available in some areas.
Cable Internet is a broadband service that transmits data over the coaxial cables that send programming to a building's televisions. As with DSL, these cables are already installed, so no special wiring is needed. Cable Internet is faster but more expensive than DSL. Users may have fewer options of service providers for cable than for DSL, because many areas are only serviced by one cable company. DSL service deteriorates with distance from the service provider, but cable service does not.
Fiber optics is a newer technology than DSL or cable. It uses wires composed of glass filaments to transmit data at light speed, making it the fastest broadband Internet available, but because the wires require special installation it is also one of the most expensive. It is not yet available in all areas. Some fiber-optic service providers run the wiring directly into users' homes or offices, while others run wires to an external node and then connect the nearby buildings to it, which slows the connection speed.
Satellite and Wireless
Satellite Internet uses a dish outside a user's home or office to send and receive data, and wireless Internet broadcasts data to a user's computer via radio waves. Satellite is available in rural areas that may not have any other kind of high-speed Internet, but installation and monthly bills are expensive. Wireless is convenient for users who travel or who want to move their laptops from room to room in their houses. For both satellite and wireless, connections are slower and somewhat less reliable than they are with cable, DSL or fiber optics.
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images