Alternatives to DSL & Cable Internet

By David Lipscomb

Cable and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) are the two most prevalent types of Internet services for homes and businesses. In addition to these service types, many locations may receive Internet access via satellite. However, you may not have access to these services due to being outside the range of a wired or wireless network. In this case, you traditionally use 3G or 4G services, normally employed when using your smartphone or tablet. In the event none of these services are accessible in your area, you might have to explore dial-up access via your phone lines.

Satellite Internet

Satellite Internet is used primarily by those in rural areas outside of cable or DSL access. It is received in a similar manner as satellite television services -- via a separate modem for upload and download. Satellite systems require a clear view to the south of the installed location. They typically have slower download speeds than terrestrial alternatives, but have the potential to avoid the network congestion terrestrial users suffer from when watching media-rich content. As of the date of publication, costs typically range from $30 to $80 per month.

3G/4G Broadband Access

Laptops and other computing devices often are able to access the Internet using the same wireless networks used by smartphones and tablets. This access is enabled by adding a credit card-sized mobile hot spot or thumb drive adapter, or enabling an internal adapter on the device itself. Alternately, tethering is a technique employed by connecting your smartphone to your laptop or computer, using its data service as your Internet connection. Tethering fees vary from provider to provider and are often influenced by usage. Consult with your provider for specific rates.

Dial-Up Internet

Although traditionally slower than high-speed options offered by cable, DSL and satellite providers, dial-up in many cases is the only option in rural or remote locations. Supplied via conventional phone lines, dial-up Internet is accessible by simply plugging in the phone line to most computer modems. Dial-up speeds are usually about 56 kilobits per second, about one-tenth the download speed of a low-cost broadband alternative. Dial-up is usually less than $10 per month from most providers.


Home and business users that require high speeds from heavy media-rich content may choose satellite or 3G/4G access. For the user that normally uses the Internet to check email and news, the low cost and slower speed of dial-up may prove adequate. If you choose to tether your cell phone to your computer or laptop, remember that there is often an additional fee if your provider offers that option. Tethering fees usually are lower than traditional broadband charges, but may involve a cap in the amount of data you can access per month without incurring additional fees. If you already have an unlimited data plan for your smartphone or tablet, the additional charges for tethering may be low enough to be a viable alternative to an additional Internet package.