Features of DSL Lines

By Joshua Smyth

A DSL modem connects to your phone line.
i cable modem image by IKO from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Although dial-up Internet connections still exist, most Internet users who have a choice look for a broadband connection to the web. Broadband provides download speeds high enough to watch streaming videos, download music and software quickly, and spend less time waiting for media-heavy websites. The biggest choice most new broadband consumers make is between cable, wireless, satellite and DSL (Digital Subscriber Line). Understanding how DSL works, and what its unique features are, can make the choice easier.


DSL signals are digital signals that travel on the same telephone lines that provide your home phone service. The quality of your wiring can affect signal quality. More important is your distance from your "central office," the telephone exchange box nearest to you, containing local telephone circuits, switches and trunks. Your distance from that box greatly affects speed and also determines whether you can get DSL service at all.


Although DSL signals travel on your phone lines, having DSL share the wiring does not impede your ability to use your phone. The DSL signals are in frequencies above the audio spectrum.

Bandwidth and Speed

DSL connections are dedicated lines that run from your home to a telephone switch. This gives DSL more consistent bandwidth than cable, since cable connections are shared. Although the basic speed of cable is often higher, many cable users online simultaneously will slow data rates.


Costs for DSL lines are usually comparable to cable broadband or satellite, and cheaper than wireless.


The biggest providers of DSL services are phone companies, but DSL is also offered by some smaller Internet-only firms.


If you have DSL service, small DSL filters must be placed between every phone in your home and the connector where the phone connects to the phone line. These filters ensure there will be no interference between the phones and the DSL signal. The filters needed for the number of phone connections in your home are usually provided along with the modem. You can buy extra filters wherever telephone supplies are sold.


DSL modems are book-size boxes with a phone line in, and an ethernet cable out to the computer or your network hub. Some DSL modems also have built-in wireless capability so you can connect to the Internet via wireless computers and smart phones inside your home. Many DSL providers will provide the DSL modem free of charge when a service contract is signed. Others rent them.