Hey there! Let‘s Talk Satellite Internet

Seeking reliable internet in the countryside can feel downright impossible at times. I feel your frustration! Traditional cable and fiber internet providers rarely service remote rural areas.

Thankfully, innovation in satellite internet gives us another option to get connected.

In this guide just between you and me, let‘s dive into everything you need to know about today‘s top satellite internet providers—Starlink, Viasat and HughesNet.

I‘ll give you an unfiltered look at the pros and cons of each so you can decide if satellite internet might solve your connectivity woes.

What Exactly is Satellite Internet?

Simply put, satellite internet works by beaming signals to space.

A home satellite dish communicates with a swarm of orbiting satellites which act as receivers and transmitters to send your data requests and receive web content.

Those satellites connect to ground stations tapping into the fiber optic backbone that transports internet data worldwide.

So satellite turns space into one giant wireless router for delivering internet almost anywhere!

Here’s a high level overview:

  • Your home satellite dish wirelessly communicates with satellites orbiting overhead
  • Satellites beam signals onto remote ground stations to access the internet backbone
  • Requested data gets relayed from ground stations back up to orbiting satellites
  • Satellites directly broadcast downloads back to your dish

Pretty wild right? 🛰️

The Key Benefit? Satellite internet works miles from urban infrastructure making it perfect for rural users that cable and telecoms ignore.

The Main Drawback? Satellite can‘t match speeds and reliability of direct fiber or cable still for most users.

Let‘s breakdown exactly how the main providers stack up.

Starlink Offers New Satellite Standard

Starlink, a SpaceX project headed by Elon Musk, upends expectations of what satellite internet can deliver.

The company actively launches new low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites weekly to expand global coverage.

Over 3,000 Starlink satellites already beam speeds rivaling cable internet plans for many rural users! 😲

Starlink‘s satellite network operates 20X closer to earth cutting latency dramatically. This means way less lag for gaming, video calls and more.

Speeds: 25 Mbps to 220 Mbps based on location

Latency: 31ms to 94ms

Coverage: Expanding quickly across U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia with most remote regions targeted by end of 2023.

I’ll be honest, Starlink impressed me delivering low lag streaming and zoom calls noticeably better than other providers.

The key negatives?

Expect brief dropouts as satellites pass and during extreme weather. CAPACITY remains limited too in many cells so speeds fluctuate depending on local user demand.

All expected to IMPROVE as SpaceX expands fleet so fingers crossed!

Limited Availability:

  • Waitlists stretching 9+ months in many oversubscribed rural regions
  • $600 upfront hardware cost
  • Monthly fee between $65 to $125

No Long-Term Contracts

  • Cancel anytime without early termination fees
  • 30 day money back guarantee on hardware

Viasat Internet $60+ Monthly

Founded in 1986, Viasat stands tall as LONGSTANDING satellite internet provider focused on affordability.

But with Viasat you must temper expectations for speed and latency matching modern standards.

Speeds: Plans from "12 Mbps" to "100 Mbps"…but read the fine print! You‘ll only achieve max speeds with largest/most expensive hardware not included in base pricing.

Most subscribers see between 15 Mbps and 25 Mbps lacking antennas and amplifiers for faster throughput.

Latency: 600ms to 800ms typically…Rough for modern workflow

Don‘t expect smooth Zoom calls or competitive Fortnite ping 😕

On the plus side, VIASAT offers internet for as low as $60 monthly in some regions…with a catch.

All plans enforce low DATA CAPS slowing service to a crawl once exceeded! You must limit streaming, gaming and large downloads to prevent overages.

Coverage: Available across most of Americas now with recent expansions into Brazil, Europe and Australia

I don‘t want to only focus on negatives. At just $60 monthly, Viasat gives budget users a way to email, surf the web and watch some Netflix.

Just understand the technology limitations before committing.

And a warning: Viasat forces new subscribers into painful 2-YEAR CONTRACTS.

Yes that‘s right, no backing out without paying steep termination fees.

Approach with eyes wide open!

HughesNet Delivers…Results May Vary

Active since 1996, HughsNet leverages a blend of old and new orbiting satellites to provide internet access to over 1 million Americans.

Advertises 25 Mbps speeds but user-run speed tests reveal Reality differs…

Speeds: 25 Mbps advertised early mornings. However, heavy congestion routinely limits users to 3 Mbps down during day usage surges.

Ouch! 😣

Latency: 600ms+ typically, spiking as high as 900ms during peak demand.

Bottom line—Don‘t expect smooth modern experiences.

On the plus side, HughesNet offers free extra Data late nights to offset throttling during daytime crunch.

Coverage: Available across most of North America

Pricing runs $59 to $159 monthly depending on data amounts. You can buy equipment for $450 one-time or finance through rental.

And again, HughsNet sticks anxious customers with painful 2-YEAR CONTRACTS.

Why limit future flexibility I say?

All in all, HughesNet works for simple web access…with patience.

I wish their technology matched the modern era but it still falls short of 21st century expectations.

WARNING! Sneaky Fees & Data Caps

Before choosing satellite internet, keep an eye for hidden fees and restrictive data policies that drive up true costs:

Overlimit Fees – Going over stingy data caps costs $10 per GB with certain providers. HD movie streaming and gaming burn through thresholds shockingly fast.

Regional Surcharges – Base pricing rarely tells full pricing story. Depending on location, taxes, fees and additional charges raise advertised rates significantly.

Peak-Time Throttling – When too many local users max out shared capacity, download speeds slow to a grind whether you individually exceed data caps or not.

Weather Related Outages – Heavy rain and wind inevitably cause short service interruptions as satellites dance in and out of view.

EQUIPMENT Rentals – Leasing gateways, routers, antennas and amplifiers ticks up monthly costs dramatically. Initial hardware purchase allows avoiding these rental fees long term.

Two-Year Contracts – Read the fine print! Viasat and HughesNet stick users with early termination fees for cancelling service before 24 months.

VPN Blocking – Several satellite providers forbid VPN tunnel use across their networks as against terms of service. Viasat offers own premium encryption options for additional fees.

Simply put, data caps and speed throttling at times of peak demand inevitably happens with shared satellite connections.

While limitations persist today, I‘m optimistic next generation options like Starlink improve rural access yearly.

LEO Networks Lead Satellite‘s Future

The satellite internet realm transforms rapidly thanks to lower orbit "LEO" networks operated by SpaceX‘s Starlink, OneWeb and Amazon‘s Project Kuiper.

By slashing latency and improving capacity, I believe LEO satellite technology holds the key to empowering remote work/school from any location.

Even airlines jump on the trend!

Recent United Airlines and JSX JetSuiteX flights offer Starlink powered Wi-Fi for lag-free entertainment and internet during flights.

Commercial airlines plan equipped with LEO powered connections over coming years.

What‘s Best for YOU?

I wish I could declare a undisputed champion rural internet provider today.

The reality?

Geography dictates options. Regional obstructions like hills and trees easily degrade satellite signals. Inclement weather causes interference too.

Satellite works wonderfully month to month then suddenly tanks for days depending on mother nature’s whims.

For consistently FASTER, more RELIABLE rural access, emerging WIRELESS SERVICES often outperform satellite:

Cellular Home Internet – Where 5G or 4G LTE signals reach, wireless carriers like T-Mobile and Verizon deliver speedy rural home internet running $50 to $100 monthly. Requires direct antenna line-of-sight to distant tower so geographic obstacles easily interfere.

Fixed Point Wireless – Local rural wireless ISPs beam internet between towers and hilltop antennas. No data caps, lower latency than satellite and consistent speeds ranging 25Mbps to 100Mbps…where available. Just as with cellular, hills and trees degrade signal between antennas limiting options for some.

In closing, I suggest listing your address across Starlink, Viasat and cellular provider availability tools.

See all high-speed internet options in your region before deciding.

I wish rural infrastructure afforded us more connectivity choices. With time, developing options eventually deliver.

Good luck and feel free to reach out if you have any other questions!

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