The 4 Best DSL Service Providers for Small Businesses


DSL broadband internet may no longer be cutting-edge tech, but for most of the US, it’s still the most readily available and fastest option for small businesses. Business.org breaks down four of the best.

  • Best Overall DSL Service
    4.5 out of 5 overall
    Fast download speeds
    Transparent plans
    View PlansRead Review
  • Best for Smaller Businesses
    4 out of 5 overall
    99.95% uptime
    Attractive bundles
    View PlansRead Review
  • Best Inexpensive DSL Service
    4 out of 5 overall
    High speeds
    Wide availability
    View PlansRead Review
  • Best DSL plus VoIP Service
    3.5 out of 5 overall
    Excellent VoIP service
    Low-cost bundles
    View PlansRead Review

DSL—digital subscriber line—may not be the hot new internet connection of the moment (that would be fiber), but it’s far more likely to be available near your business (unlike fiber). Fiber coverage is still slowly rolling out across the US, while DSL high-speed internet access is almost everywhere, thanks to good, old-fashioned copper telephone lines.1

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, DSL internet access grew quickly because previous options like dial-up and T1 connections were either slow, expensive, or both. While the original foundation of the internet is built on fiber, the connection from providers to DSL modems in homes and businesses—referred to as “the last mile”—is mostly still made up of phone lines and, because of a ’90s innovation, coaxial cable TV lines.

The best DSL internet providers for business

BrandAdvertised download speedsContract lengthStarting monthly priceLearn more
AT&T Business Internet 25 Mbps to 500 Mbps1 year$40View Plans
Verizon Business Internet1 Mbps to 15 Mbps2 years$40View Plans
CenturyLink Business Internet10 Mbps to 100 Mbps2 years$40View Plans
Frontier Business Internet7 Mbps to 20 Mbps1 year$20View Plans

Data effective 04/11/18. At publishing time, pricing and speeds are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Based on our research, Business.org recommends these DSL providers for small businesses.

DSL works within different frequencies of the thousands available through a phone line, so you can have high-speed internet service and a telephone conversation simultaneously. (Some of you may remember yelling at your mom to “Hang up the phone!” so you could get online—good times.)

For business purposes, DSL is still a reliable and readily available internet connection with equal upsides (relatively inexpensive, good for multiple users) and downsides (slow upload times, deteriorated service depending on distance from the internet provider). Also, along with cable internet—which comes with its own unique set of pluses and minuses—DSL might be your only high-speed broadband option, depending on the geographical location of your business.

Best overall DSL service: AT&T Business Internet

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Strengths

  • High download speeds
  • Transparent plans
  • Short contracts
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Weaknesses

  • Slow upload speeds
  • Expensive plans

Verizon serves up the best combination of business internet speeds, reliability, and support.

Although Verizon sells a few business DSL plans, none have speeds at 25 Mbps or more. For truly fast speeds, fiber is hard to beat. Verizon’s fiber plans, branded Fios, offer you a chance at near-gigabit connections.

AT&T Business Internet isn’t the cheapest DSL service available, but it offers speeds and stability that’ll make it easy to overlook how much your business is paying for it. For a small operation with a handful of employees conducting basic online business, like web browsing, email, and minimal data transfers, AT&T’s Internet 25 plan (25 Mbps download speed; 1.5 Mbps upload) is a solid choice at $40 per month. Above that, there are three more tiers, topping out with the Internet 500 plan (500 Mbps download speed; 8 Mbps upload), which is more powerful than anything else we’ve found in the DSL realm—and, of course, more expensive at $300 per month.

AT&T Business DSL Plans

PlanStarting price
(per month)
Download speedMax upload speedLearn more
Internet 25$4025 Mbps1.5 MbpsView Plans
Internet 50$7050 Mbps3 MbpsView Plans
Internet 100$120100 Mbps6 MbpsView Plans
Internet 500$270500 Mbps8 MbpsView Plans

Data effective 05/20/18. At publishing time, pricing and speeds are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

But at least AT&T Business Internet lets you know what you’re getting into—details of its DSL plans are plainly spelled out and easy to understand, unlike those of some other providers. Also, those plans won’t follow you or your business to the grave, as the contracts are just 12 months long, with a 30-day money-back guarantee and free installation thrown in. All of this, plus a 99.90% uptime guarantee, helps offset AT&T’s relatively pricey buy-in. If you’re looking for the next-best business alternative to fiber, this is it.

Best DSL service for smaller businesses: Verizon Business Internet

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Strengths

  • 99.95% guaranteed uptime
  • Attractive bundling plans
  • Superior customer service
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Weaknesses

  • Slow DSL service
  • Relatively expensive plans

If you’re running a smaller office for just a couple of people with modest internet demands, Verizon Business Internet might have a workable plan for you. At 99.95% guaranteed uptime, there’s little question about reliability, and Verizon’s bundling options—wherein you could include digital phone (VoIP) services—aren’t overly expensive. There’s also a wide array of extra services available, from cloud storage to high-end technical support, that could benefit your business in ways you may not have considered (such as 24/7 support and security), and Verizon’s customer service ratings are well above average.

Verizon Business DSL Plans

PlanStarting price
(per month)
Download speedMax upload speedLearn more
Business Internet 1 Mbps$401 Mbps384 KbpsView Plans
Business Internet 3 Mbps$47.993 Mbps768 KbpsView Plans
Business Internet 5 Mbps$64.995 Mbps768 KbpsView Plans
Business Internet 7 Mbps$64.997 Mbps768 KbpsView Plans
Business Internet 10-15 Mbps$64.9910 to 15 Mbps1 MbpsView Plans

Data effective 04/11/18. At publishing time, pricing and speeds are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

Now here’s the big but: Verizon Business Internet’s DSL plans are s-l-o-w. For a modern workplace, even if it’s only for a couple of people, Verizon’s basic 1 Mbps and 3 Mbps plans are essentially useless; the 5 Mbps and 7 Mbps plans are only a slight improvement. The 10–15 Mbps plan is the best Verizon can offer in DSL and, while that’s a decent download rate, it’s no match for the company’s ultra-fast, fiber-optic Fios service (which, if available in your area, you might want to look into). If your business’s internet requirements are as basic as email and small file transfers, however, Verizon Business Internet DSL is a solid service.

Best inexpensive DSL service: CenturyLink Business Internet

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Strengths

  • High speeds
  • Wide availability
  • Included perks
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Weaknesses

  • $99 activation fee
  • No trial period

Louisiana-based CenturyLink Business Internet is available in most of the US, the most glaring exceptions being California and New York. If your company does happen to reside in a CenturyLink service area, however, you’d be able to take advantage of some speedy DSL plans at budget-friendly prices: DSL Business Internet 10 starts at $54.99 a month for 10 Mbps of download speed (good for a couple of employees), incrementally moving up to the Business Internet 100 plan at $104.99 a month (which can handle nearly 10 employees easily). As speed-to-price ratios go, CenturyLink’s are tough to beat in the DSL field.

Centurylink Business DSL Plans

PlanStarting price
(per month)
Download speedLearn more
Business Internet 10$54.9910 MbpsView Plans
Business Internet 20$64.99 20 MbpsView Plans
Business Internet 40$84.9940 MbpsView Plans
Business Internet 100$104.99100 MbpsView Plans

Data effective 04/11/18. At publishing time, pricing and speeds are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

CenturyLink doesn’t provide details on upload speeds, which are important to know should your business be conducting online activities like large file transfers, video conferencing, and heavy Wi-Fi usage. But in DSL service, you can typically figure upload speeds to be roughly a 10th of download speeds: 10 Mbps down would be about 1 Mbps up, 100 Mbps down would be about 10 Mbps up, etc. CenturyLink also provides some nice perks for a new business, like two licenses for Microsoft Office 365 Business Essentials and 20 GB of data backup with their plans.

Best DSL+VoIP service: Frontier Business

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Strengths

  • Excellent VoIP service
  • Low-cost bundles
  • Solid uptime guarantees
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Weaknesses

  • Slow lower-tier plans
  • Spotty customer service ratings

Frontier Business Internet has done a great job of naming its plans to make them seem more robust. There are business internet tiers Max (7 Mbps), Ultra (15 Mbps), and Ultimate (20 Mbps), which implies there should be no more—but then there’s an Extreme level (40 Mbps). Clever titles aside, only the latter two of Frontier’s DSL plans would really be adequate for conducting online business in a growing shop. But things get more interesting when you factor in Frontier AnyWare VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone service: it’s a customizable, scalable, cloud-based digital communications system that can handle up to 500 connections, and it can be added to most of Frontier’s DSL plans for around 10 bucks.

Frontier Business DSL Plans

PlanStarting price
(per month)
Download speedLearn more
Business Internet Max 7 $19.997 MbpsView Plans
Business Internet Ultra 15 $24.9915 MbpsView Plans
Business Internet Ultimate 20$34.9920 MbpsView Plans
Business Internet Extreme 40 $139.9940 MbpsView Plans

Data effective 04/11/18. At publishing time, pricing and speeds are current but are subject to change. Offers may not be available in all areas.

As mentioned previously, download speeds of less than 20 Mbps—Frontier didn’t provide any upload speed specs—would be enough for only a tiny business with featherweight internet demands. But Frontier Business Internet’s Ultimate 20 or Extreme 40 plans, bundled with AnyWare VoIP phone service, should be attractive to a new business that’s just starting up with limited resources.

What are the pros and cons of DSL?

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Pros

  • DSL is available wherever there are telephone lines, which is most of the US.
  • It’s typically much less expensive than fiber or satellite internet connections.
  • DSL uses a dedicated line per subscriber, unlike cable internet, which is shared between (and slowed by) other users.
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Cons

  • DSL is one of the slowest internet connections you can get (but still faster than dial-up or satellite).
  • The further the distance between your DSL connection and the central provider, the weaker your signal and the slower your internet speed.
  • Providers are working toward fiber-only services and, eventually, rendering DSL obsolete.

How much speed is enough?

  • 1–15 Mbps: A one-person operation sending emails and the occasional file could get by on an under 15 Mbps connection, but just barely.
  • 15–25 Mbps: For larger file transfers, minor point-of-sale transactions, and the basic internet needs of two to three employees, 15 to 25 Mbps could suffice.
  • 25–50 Mbps: A five-person office conducting large file transfers and more POS transactions, as well as some video conferencing, could run smoothly with 25 to 50 Mbps.
  • 50–75 Mbps: Seven or more could collaborate online at 50 to 75 Mbps, a plus for remote workers. Data backup and transfer stability also come into play.
  • 75–100 Mbps: Moving into ten-and-up employee territory, 75 to 100 Mbps could handle more audio and video streaming connections, as well as Wi-Fi usage.
  • 100–150 Mbps: The 150 Mbps range could accommodate more internet demand, like web hosting, e-commerce, and increased data usage, as well as more users.
  • 150–500 Mbps: As far as DSL is concerned, 150 to 500 Mbps is as fast as you’re going to get, and a medium-sized office could squeeze plenty of online business out of it. Add any more bandwidth load, however, and you’ll want to consider upgrading to a fiber internet connection.

What’s the difference between business and residential internet?

If you’re thinking, “Residential internet hookups are cheaper than business connections, so I’ll just get by with that for now,” think again. Business internet is designed for business, with higher (or no) data caps, faster available speeds, and SLAs (service level agreements) that guarantee refunds or sometimes even early contract exits should your connection go down and affect your business. Residential DSL internet, in which the “D” is not for “dedicated” (meaning you’re sharing bandwidth with the neighborhood), promises little beyond being able to check your email and watch Netflix—maybe even at the same time.

How does DSL compare to fiber?

DSL vs. fiber is hardly a fair fight anymore. Digital subscriber lines have essentially been maxed out at this point in digital history, as the telephone-copper “last mile” connection between the fiber-optic base of the internet itself can only handle so many megabits per second (500 Mbps at most). Fiber, which transmits data as pulses of light through microscopic glass or plastic strands with no outside electromagnetic interference, can reach speeds of 100 Gbps (gigabits per second), or 100,000 Mbps. Fiber is also scalable, meaning it’s built to grow in scope and speed, whereas copper’s capability has reached the end of the line. US and Dutch researchers have even experimented with a multi-core fiber connection that’s hit 255 Tbps (terrabits per second), or 100,000 Gbps.² But don’t expect that to be available in your office complex. Yet.

What are other factors to consider?

Choosing an internet service provider for your business should involve asking about more than just prices and speeds. For example, try these questions:

  • Will customer service and technicians be available 24/7?
  • What’s the provider’s annual predicted downtime?
  • Are there data caps in place?
  • How long is the contract?
  • What are the fine-print terms of service?
  • How will the recent repeal of net neutrality affect your service?
  • Should you bundle your internet with other services, like phone and TV?
  • Should you get a dynamic or static IP address?
  • Are email, cloud storage, or VPN (virtual private network) services available or included?
  • Should you rent or buy the necessary connection equipment?
  • Does the ISP provide anti-spam, antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, or backup services?
  • Is website hosting or point-of-sale connectivity available or included?

The takeaway

Despite its encroaching extinction, there are still plenty of viable DSL internet plans out there to get your business functioning online, especially if you’re just starting up and looking to stay on budget. It’s also the fastest and most stable option available to most of the US at the moment—just review your needs, and do the homework, first.

Disclaimers

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don’t guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Sources

1. Federal Communications Commission, “Types of Broadband Connections
2. Extreme Tech, “255Tbps: World’s Fastest Network Could Carry All of the Internet’s Traffic on a Single Fiber