DSL vs Satellite Internet: Which One is Better for Rural Dwellers?

If you are a countryside dweller faced with the choice between DSL vs. satellite internet, which should you choose?

 It is a dilemma that faces many rural-based companies and homesteads due to the lack of several internet options. 

DSL offers a cost-effective way to stay connected to the internet with moderate speeds, but it’s unavailable everywhere. 

On the other hand, satellite internet is available in the remotest corners, but its speeds and steep prices are questionable. 

I will comprehensively compare DSL and satellite internet regarding speed, prices, and other parameters to inform your choice.

Table of Contents

DSL vs. Satellite: Definition

Direct subscriber line, abbreviated as DSL, is one of the oldest internet-providing technologies in the world.

 This technology uses the same copper telephone lines that your phones use to provide internet to rural premises. 

However, it is designed to use specific frequencies, leaving lower frequencies to phone calls to ensure no interference. 

DSL was supposed to be the fastest internet technology, but it was surpassed by cable and fiber optics.

On the other hand, satellite internet is a non-land-based internet service that uses satellites installed in space. 

While DSL, cable, and Fiber require cables and wires to transmit signals, satellite internet signals travel through space. 

This phenomenon explains why satellite internet is available in the remotest regions while DSL is not. 

Traditional satellites were mostly launched in geostationary orbit, but recent technologies such as Starlink launched satellites in low earth orbit

DSL vs. Satellite: How it Works

As we established DSL, the internet uses copper telephone lines. 

You will require a modem from your internet service vendor to use the service.

 Signals travel through the telephone line to your modem, converted into a form understandable to your computer.

 In turn, signals from your computer travel through the same modem to the telephone line and other servers. 

This transmission allows you to connect to the internet. 

DSL internet uses a different frequency than your phone, allowing you to make calls while browsing without experiencing disconnections.

Conversely, satellite internet uses satellites installed in space to beam signals to your resident.

 You will require a satellite dish or antenna and a router from your ISP to connect to this service.  

You then install the dish or antennae in an open space with a clear sky view to allow communication with the nearest satellite. 

Then connect your dish to your router, viable a cable, and the router to your device. Signals travel from your device through the modern, and the dish transmits them to and from the satellite.=

Installing an Internet router

Installing an Internet router

DSL vs. Satellite: Providers

Here are some of the US’s main providers for DSL and satellite internet providers.

DSL Internet providers

Due to the already established DSL infrastructure, almost every major and local internet vendor provides some DSL internet. 

However, the US’s main two DSL internet providers are AT&T and Centurylink. While AT&T offers several plans for fiber and cable, it offers one for DSL, known as AT&T5-100MBPS.

 The speed you get depends on your location, with many people experiencing an average of 20 Mbps. 

Additionally, the plan retails at $50 per month and is available in some remote areas. 

Centurylink is another large provider in the US based on its client base. The ISP offers a speed between 15 to 100 Mbps for $49.

 Note that all these prices do not include equipment and shipping fees, and data are subject to capping.

Satellite internet providers

Satellite internet is expensive, and only a few companies can afford the luxury. 

In the US, the main satellite internet providers are HughesNet, Viasat, and, recently, Starlink. HughesNet is the biggest, with over 1.2 million users across the US. 

It retails at $60 to $150, with 25Mbps capped at 10 to 50GB, depending on your chosen plan. 

The other provider is Viasat which boasts over 700K users and speeds better than HughesNet

Viast offers several plans, retailing at $50 to $150 for speeds of 15 to 100Mbps, capped at 35 to 150GB.

 The last and latest big satellite internet provider is Starlink. 

Unlike the other two, Stalink offers its services globally and uses low-earth orbit satellites. 

It ensures a high speed of more than 250Mbps and no data cap. 

However, the service is expensive, with equipment retailing at $599 to $2500 and subscriptions ranging from $110 to $500 monthly.

DSL vs. Satellite: Speed and Latency

No matter your internet usage, speed is the first factor to consider when selecting an internet service provider.

 DSL and satellite internet offer speeds that can cater to a basic user requirement, with DSL being faster. 

DSL offers more than 50Mbps compared to satellite internet, which caps at 25Mbps. However, this speed is way below the 250 Mbps that Starlink offers.

 Additionally,  DSL speed deteriorates as you move away from the service provider, which does not occur on satellite internet. 

But satellite internet is prone to weather interference, while DSL is not weather dependent.  Therefore, except for Starlink, I would recommend DSL regarding internet speed.

When considering latency, DSL internets have lower latency compared to satellites except for Starlink.

 Latency is the lag time between sending and receiving data among devices.  

This lag determines how to perform real-time online tasks without delay, such as video gaming and conferencing. 

For DSL, the latency is mostly below 100 ms; for satellites, it can go beyond 400 ms. 

Satellite internet high latency results from data traveling far between the satellite and your device. 

However, we exempt Starlink from high satellite latency since it uses sophisticated technology to lower it to about 40 ms.

DSL vs. Satellite: For Gaming:

Unless you choose Starlink, avoid satellite internet for gaming. Gaming, especially live ones, requires very low latency to ensure fast response time.

 But, we have already established that satellite internet can clock more than 400 ms latency, thus affecting your response time. 

It means DSL is the better option for this task. While DSL is better for gaming than satellite internet, it’s still not ideal for high-end gaming.

Gaming over the Internet

Gaming over the Internet

DSL vs. Satellite: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons 
DSL internet Affordable pricing, adequate speedLower LatencyNot available everywhere with data caps low speed when far from the provider
Satellite internet Available everywhereAffordable monthly pricingNot available everywhere with data caps and low speed when far from the provider

DSL vs. Satellite: Pricing

Compared to DSL, satellite internet has very steep pricing. In some cases, their speed does not justify this price. 

Generally, prices start at $60 with various data caps. Some companies like Starlik also have a higher price which starts at $110 per month. 

Additionally, you sometimes have to pay for equipment and professional installation. 

In contrast, DSL price starts at just $50, and the ISP mostly provides the equipment and installation. 

Other Internet Connection Types to Consider

Apart from DSL, there are three other types of Internet connections. These include:

  • Cable: Cable internet uses underground wires to connect you to the internet. It is fast, with over 500 Mbps but unavailable in all areas. 
  • Fiber: Fiber is the fastest internet on the planet, with a speed of even more than 1Gbps. This network uses fiber optic cables to connect users but is usually available in cities.
  • Fixed wireless: There is the 4G and the 5G wireless internet. Both use mobile phone towers and can be very fast. However, it can be unstable, and its availability is also limited.
Fiber Internet

Fiber Internet

DSL vs. Satellite: Which is a Better Rural Internet Option?

Comparing both internet services, it’s clear that DSL is the fastest and most reliable service. It is also cheaper and has low latency compared to satellite internet. 

It is the better option for rural internet. However, it deteriorates as you move away from the provider tower. 

Hence, when you consider the remotest of the rural regions, satellite internet may be the only choice available.


After thorough research, I recommend DSL internet for rural connectivity.

 It offers better connectivity, affordable pricing, and low latency for most household usage.

 But remember that it may not be available anywhere, so you can use satellite internet. 

However, while both services are suitable for most basic usage, they may not handle high-end usage such as gaming. 

In this case, and if budget is not an issue, I recommend Starlink satellite internet. It is available in most areas, it is fast, and its latencies are very low.