How Fast Should DSL Be?

By Oneil Williams

DSL technology can support speeds of up to 40 Mbps.
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If you're evaluating DSL Internet, you'll find that speeds and plans will vary by provider. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), you can expect speeds ranging from 1.5 Mbps to 8 Mbps from conventional ADSL services, where download speeds are typically greater than upload speeds. Newer DSL technology can support download speeds in excess of 30 Mbps.

Light Internet Users

If you only use the Internet to occasionally check your emails and surf the web, you probably won't require very much in the way of bandwidth. As you evaluate providers, it is important to think about your Internet habits so you don't end up selecting a plan that offers you more than you actually use. Most providers do a good job of outlining the tasks you can complete seamlessly with each of the plans they provide. Light Internet users will probably need download speeds of no more than 1 to 3 Mbps.

Moderate Internet Users

Streaming music, downloading large files and watching movies online will require significantly more bandwidth. Users who engage in these types of activities frequently will want to evaluate plans that offer download speeds that range somewhere between 10 Mbps and 20 Mbps. Internet service providers allocate more speeds in the download direction because most users do more downloading than uploading. If you're sharing the Internet connection with others in your household, a plan that provides speeds within this range should keep all Internet users satisfied. Discuss your usage patterns with the provider's representative and be sure to note how many users in your household will also need access to the Internet.

Heavy Internet Users

For users who engage in intensive computing tasks, you'll want to evaluate plans that give you the greatest amount of speed possible. As of June 2011, Qwest's DSL offering is one of the fastest in the nation with download speeds of up to 40 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 5 Mbps. For even faster speeds, you'll need to evaluate cable or fiber-optic Internet offerings, unless the DSL provider can guarantee you the speed you need under an alternative plan.


When evaluating DSL technology, be aware that your distance from the provider's central office will affect the speeds to which you will have access. The closer you are to the central office, the faster Internet speeds you'll have. Depending on the provider, you may be required to sign a long-term contract for service. If your Internet usage is going to be intensive, you should review the terms of service on the provider's website to ensure your usage will remain within the plan's monthly data cap.