DSL Internet connections began in 1984, and at the time offered high-speed Internet access for commercial and residential needs. Higher speeds are now available in many communities via cable or fiber optic lines, but DSL still offers a decent speed at a reasonable monthly price. The way DSL works is to transfer data through phone lines, but on higher frequencies than traditional phone service, so that there is no interference on the phone lines. This provides a faster, more reliable connection than dial-up service, without tying up the phone line or requiring a second line.
When determining which company in your area provides the best value, start with the price. In addition to the monthly price, weigh any activation or installation fees, possible termination fees if you end a contract early, and any costs associated with purchasing or leasing equipment, such as a modem. Expect plans from national providers to start around $25 to $40 a month, as of the time of publication, though pricing varies by region. Special promotions may be available to reduce the rate, especially if you are willing to agree to a service contract.
Speed in relation to price is also an important factor to consider. Speed is measured in megabits per second, which indicates how much data is transmitted per second. The higher the number, the faster the connection. Most companies offer a basic plan starting at 0.5 to 1 or 1.5 Mbps. Though this lowest speed should be sufficient for streaming multimedia, you may wish to boost your speed package if you frequently download large files. Qwest advertises up to 40 Mbps, Verizon offers 15 Mbps and EarthLink maxes out at 6 Mbps, as of the time of publication. Speeds available may vary by region.
Some companies require that you sign a contract when using their service, meaning that you are tied to their service for the length of the contract. The contract can only be canceled with a termination fee, which may be costly. Verizon and EarthLink both require a contract of at least a year. AT&T and Qwest do not require contracts, and service can be canceled at any time.
Reliability of a DSL service should be evaluated based on customer service, technical support, coverage and amount of down time. Each company allows users access to their support network via their website, so it is important to check what services they provide before purchasing a package. Companies such as Verizon offer tutorials and how-to guides to help you get started with connecting and setting up your Internet connection, and EarthLink DSL provides its users with free security software at the time of installation.
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images