DSL vs. Fiber Optic: Which Internet Service is Better for Small Businesses?


DSL and fiber-optic are two of the fastest Internet options available right now, and both offer a wealth of advantages. But before you trade in your current service, let us help you compare DSL vs. fiber internet service plans and providers. Learn more about the pros and cons of both broadband Internet options to better help you decide which is best for your small business.

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As a small business owner you’ve armed your employees with the fastest, most reliable high-speed Internet service your budget will allow. But the Internet service you chose a few years ago may not be the best option available for your small business today. You business’ needs have likely changed, and services like digital subscriber line (DSL) and fiber-optic (FiOS) Internet and are becoming more widely available, and much more popular than the old-school cable internet options.

How DSL and FiOS Work

DSL Internet takes advantage of your business’ existing phone line to deliver high speed Internet access. Unlike with dial-up internet, which also uses a phone line, DSL doesn’t interfere with phone conversations. You can conveniently use the Internet while talking on the phone.The most common type of DSL service is asymmetric DSL. With asymmetric DSL, download speeds are fast and upload speeds are much slower. A cable modem is required for DSL, and it is often provided as part of a professional installation package from the internet service provider. You should be aware that the installation technician may be able to use your business’ existing phone line for DSL, but if your office phone line is older, the technician will need to install a new line to accommodate DSL service.

Fiber-optic Internet is carried by a strand of lightweight, thin, cables via modulated light. Just like DSL, FiOS is usually installed by a professional. However some providers will offer a self-installation option, or free installation altogether like Frontier does. Unlike DSL which uses your business’ existing phone line, fiber-optic Internet requires that a fiber optic cable connection be run to your business. As a result, the installation process for FiOS is commonly more intrusive and takes longer than DSL.

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Round One: Reliability

DSL offers a convenient “always-on” connection and is considered a reliable cable Internet option. However, because access is delivered by your business’ phone line, you’ll lose your Internet connection should the line be damaged or interrupted. Keep in mind that if your phone line is inadvertently cut by a service worker or taken out of service due to a storm or lightening strike, you’ll lose Internet access. If your business must have Internet to operate, it’s a good idea to have a backup Internet access option.

Fiber-optic is as reliable as DSL. Often, it is considered much more reliable. FiOS is considered a passive system, which means power does not need to be applied within the system network. So, during power outages, a fiber-optic network is less likely than DSL to be interrupted or go down.Unlike the copper cables used with DSL, the conductor with FiOS is glass. Therefore, it does not generate electricity like DSL, and is protected from interference that can be caused by nearby power lines or high-voltage electrical equipment. Plus, with fiber-optic cable connections, there is less chance of your computer sustaining lightening related damage.

Round Two: Availability

A DSL internet connection is more widely available than FiOS, but it isn’t offered everywhere. In fact, just because your business has telephone service doesn’t mean you can get DSL. If your office is located more than 22,000 feet from the phone company central office (CO), you probably won’t be able to receive DSL service. That’s because the signal deteriorates and Internet speeds slow the farther you are located from a CO. Fortunately, over half of telephone customers in the U.S. live in areas that could support DSL.

Fiber-optic cable availability is expanding, but it’s still only offered in limited service areas. Because FiOS requires the installation of new cable, it will take some time before it’s as widely accessible as DSL. Once installed however, speed is not impacted by distance as it is with DSL.

Round Three: Speed

DSL download speeds are almost always slower than speeds offered by FiOS, and generally range from .5 to 15 megabits per second (Mbps), but some providers are now offering speeds of 40 Mbps. You can expect upload speed from 384 kilobits per second (Kbps) to 768 Kbps, however upload speeds as fast as 1.0 Mbps are now being offered by a handful of providers. When providers refer to internet speeds, for example “15 Mbps,” they are referring to download speeds unless they state otherwise.

DSL is fast, but FiOS is incredibly fast and can send data over much greater distances while maintaining speed. Fiber-optic Internet offers download speeds ranging from 150 Mbps up to 500 Mbps, and upload speeds from 65 Mbps to 100 Mbps. The unmatched speed of FiOS allows a number of users to download, upload, stream and share files simultaneously without compromising performance.

Round Four: Price

DSL is generally priced from $19.99 up to $50.00 per month. Phone service is not always required, and installation fees may apply.

  • Short contracts with free installation
  • Fiber plans starting at $49.99 a month

Keep in mind that you’ll pay more for faster speeds and you’ll usually get the best rate when you sign up for a long term contract or bundle services. You’ll also have to purchase or lease the modem from the provider. In some cases, it will be given to you at no charge.

Fiber-optic is priced much higher than DSL. Plans often begin at about $100.00 per month, but can exceed $300.00 per month depending on where your business is located, the speed you want, and the length of your service contract (most providers will require a two year commitment). You may have to pay an installation fee or activation fee, but some companies offer promotions that waive this fee.

The Takeaway

Generally customers are more satisfied with fiber internet where it’s available. Click the links above to check availability for you zip code. Selecting the optimum high-speed Internet service for your business isn’t something you should do once and forget it. As your business expands and evolves, your Internet needs will also, so be sure to stay updated on new technology trends.

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