The Different Types of Internet Connections, Explained

The vast majority of Americans use the internet, but how many of us think about the way that we connect to the internet? The truth is, there are many different types of internet connections, and understanding all of these different types can help us to make the best possible purchase when it comes to buying internet.

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at the types of internet connections that are available to the average American consumer, and the pros and cons of each.

Are you ready to learn more about the best internet connections for both rural and urban areas, as well as which you should avoid? Then read on and get informed!


We start with the granddaddy of internet connections, the venerable dial-up. The howls and screams of the dial-up modem are still well-known to geeks around the world, but what might surprise them is that some Americans still use a dial-up modem to connect to the internet.

Using dial-up in 2021 is a frustrating, slow, and difficult experience. Look at it this way: 56K dial-up was slow back when web pages were designed around it. Today, web pages use far more images and scripts, so loading them on dial-up takes a very long time.

Tech support for dial-up connections is hard to come by, too. So few people use this connection method that the vast majority of tech support staff are no longer trained on it, so if you have a problem, you may well be on your own.

While dial-up is preferable to having no connection at all, it’s a hideous experience in most respects. Unless it’s your only option, you should steer clear of dial-up at all costs.


DSL is a very common way to connect to the internet. If you have broadband in the US, and you’re not on fiber, then you’re almost certainly connected via a DSL line.

DSL is a massive step up from dial-up. While speeds do vary, you can expect the speed to be in megabits per second, rather than kilobits, which means that on most DSL lines you’ll be able to stream Netflix, play games, and more.

The biggest issue with DSL is that it’s only available in urban areas. If you don’t live in a city, town, or even a village, you’re unlikely to have access to DSL. You may have to pay for the phone company to lay cable to your house if you want to get it.

If you can get a DSL connection, these connections tend to be fast, affordable, and pretty solid.

Fiber Optic Broadband

Fiber optic broadband is the fastest internet around. Fiber optic cables transmit information as light, which means that speeds can reach the gigabits on certain lines! For reference, a gigabit internet connection can download a 4K movie in minutes.

Fiber optic broadband does tend to be more expensive than DSL and dial-up, but it’s still affordable for most people. Unfortunately, your choice of fiber companies in the US is pretty limited. A handful of companies control the vast majority of fiber optic broadband packages, so if they’re too expensive for you, you’re out of luck.

There’s another issue with fiber too: it’s not available everywhere. As it requires its own purpose-built cables, coverage across the country is fairly spotty, in most states fiber coverage is pretty lackluster.


Cable internet uses cable TV lines to transmit data, which is faster than DSL but not as fast as fiber. In general, cable internet is pretty popular across the US and it offers good speeds, but it does also often require a cable TV subscription.

While this is not a hard and fast rule, it’s something to bear in mind when you’re shopping for an internet connection. If you can get cable TV, you can also get cable internet, so it’s a great option for homes that aren’t wired for broadband with copper wire or fiber.

Fixed Wireless Internet

Fixed wireless internet is a great option for rural homes that can’t get access to high-speed internet through conventional means. The fixed wireless ISP will erect and operate a base station that works like a mobile phone mast. They’ll connect multiple high-speed fiber lines to the base station and then transmit the internet over a wide radius.

If you’ve got a line of sight with the base station, you can install a small antenna on your house which can then receive an internet connection. You can connect the antenna to a wifi router and get wifi throughout your home!

The biggest issues with fixed wireless internet connections are that they tend to be expensive and they’re also quite rare.

Satellite Internet

If you live in a very rural area, you should consider getting satellite internet. This type of internet connection is available everywhere, thanks to the wide footprint of satellites.

To get it, you’ll need to install a satellite dish on your home, which you can then use to set up a wifi network. Unlimited satellite internet is available with some packages, so even if you’re in the middle of nowhere, you can still enjoy your latest Netflix show.

Speeds tend to be high with satellite internet too, far higher than dial-up or many rural DSL packages. If you live in a rural area, satellite internet is a fantastic option. The only downside is that it can be quite expensive, but this varies from company to company.

The Different Types of Internet Connections: Explained

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to the different types of internet connections. There are a whole host of ways for you to get online, but which is the best? If you live in an urban area, fiber, if you live in a rural area, satellite.

Both offer great speeds that let you use the internet to its fullest.

For more interesting articles like this one, check out the rest of our site!

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