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How do I Choose the Best ADSL ISP?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 17, 2024
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Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL or DSL for short) describes a type of high-speed Internet connection that runs over standard copper telephone lines. ADSL can be used to surf the Web while the landline remains available for taking calls, making ADSL an extremely popular and affordable choice for Internet. ADSL is not available in some rural areas, but is common in populated regions. Finding the best ADSL Internet Service Provider (ADSL ISP) will take just a little research and a basic understanding of how ADSL is commonly provided to neighborhoods.

The first step is to visit a website that will provide a list of ADSL companies based on a service address (e.g. your home). Since these sites don’t always return all providers, an additional search can be run in Google® such as, "cheap DSL + [your town, state]," minus the brackets.

Make a list of the providers that service your address, and compare plans. An ADSL ISP typically offers tiered choices with faster plans being more expensive than slower plans. Note that the slowest DSL plan – usually 768 kilobits per second (kbps) – may not be fast enough to run streaming content smoothly in all cases. Another consideration is whether or not more than one person in the household will be using the connection simultaneously, as this will reduce the bandwidth available to each person accordingly.

ADSL2 is a second-generation flavor of ADSL that runs much faster (12-24 megabits per second), and is also more expensive. If you require such speeds, look for an ADSL ISP that sells ADSL2 service.

Once you have narrowed your ADSL ISP down to a few candidates, it can be helpful to know how far your physical address lies from the nearest telephone exchange or DSLAM (Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplier) for that provider. A DSLAM is a networking device that makes it possible to extend the reach of DSL, as signals degrade as they travel over copper lines. People who live at the outer reaches of the closest DSLAM will experience speeds that are at the slower end of their subscribed plan’s range. Those who live very close to a DSLAM will have fewer delays and experience speeds at the top end of the plan’s range. If multiple companies are in the running and all else is equal, you might want to chose the ADSL ISP with the closest DSLAM.

Customer service is another area of importance, especially to people who are not technologically inclined. DSLReports.com provides a wealth of information and insight into various companies by way of customer feedback forums. In many cases representatives from various ISPs also participate.

An ADSL ISP might offer discounted rates for the first year with a one-year contract. Payment is typically made monthly via credit card or electronic funds. Renewal of the account after the initial year will result in the fee increasing to the standard price. Changing plans in the middle of a yearly contract to another tier might incur fees, and canceling the plan prior to the end of the contract might also incur penalties. Be sure to read the fine print.

Most ADSL providers will include a DSL modem in the contract, either for free or for a monthly fee. At the end of the contract, the DSL modem is typically returned to the provider to avoid being charged for the equipment. A non-wireless modem might be included for free or for less money than a wireless model. The advantage of getting the modem from the ADSL ISP is that it will be preconfigured to work with the service.

Others opt to provide their own DSL modem, easily purchased from electronics outlets. One can also get a model that is compatible with ADSL2. Configuration schemes for providers can be found in the modem literature, online, or can be requested from the ADSL ISP itself.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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