The persistent digital divide is the cause of many Americans lacking adequate internet access. Although the exact number isn’t clear, there is an increase in demand for broadband expansion in rural and remote areas with time. This lack of internet access can bar you from benefiting from life-changing opportunities like education, health, and financial services.
Life in rural and remote areas may be calm and peaceful, but it also means limited internet options. Reliable internet is necessary for shaping your life in current times. As the government and internet providers work to bridge the digital divide, the rural population has to rely on satellite internet connections. Even though it is slower than cable and fiber internet services, its nationwide coverage makes it the only choice of internet access for many peoples.
Best Satellite Internet Providers
With a persistent digital divide, there should be more options for the rural population, and yet they are only limited to two providers. The reason for this limitation is that many old satellite companies like Exede, dishNet, Wildblue, and EarthLink either discontinued their services or were bought by other providers. HughesNet and Viasat are the only two satellite internet options available to people across all states as Starlink is in the testing phase.
Viasat is an ideal choice if high-speed internet is your primary requirement. It offers more speed options and data than HughesNet, and you also get the freedom to choose from various plans.
Plans and Pricing
Viasat offers its plans in two categories; Liberty and Unlimited plans. The difference between these two plans is that Viasat's unlimited plans have a soft data cap. While you get high speeds and extra data in unlimited plans, you cannot buy more data once you have exceeded your data limit and your speed gets throttled to 1 to 5 Mbps during rush hours. On the other hand, Liberty Plans throttle your internet speed to 1-5 Mbps, but they allow you to buy more data.
Viasat offers its plans with various speeds and data allowances and costs about $30 to &170 a month. But keep in mind that these prices aren’t fixed and get hiked by 33% after the promotional period of 3 months. Here is an overview of Viasat's internet plans.
|Plan||Speed||Data Cap||Promotional Cost|
|Liberty 12||12 Mbps||12 GB||$30/month|
|Liberty 25||12 Mbps||25 GB||$50/month|
|Liberty 50||12 Mbps||50 GB||$75/month|
|Unlimited Bronze 12||12 Mbps||80 GB||$64.99/month|
|Unlimited Silver 25||25 Mbps||120 GB||$84.99/month|
|Unlimited Gold 50||50 Mbps||200 GB||$119.99/month|
|Unlimited Platinum 100||100 Mbps||300 GB||$169.99/month|
Viasat provides a max speed of 100 Mbps, which is a lot faster than its counterpart HughesNet. Viasat’s plan with 100 Mbps speed is sufficient to connect multiple devices and enjoy activities like streaming, online gaming, and browsing, but you have to keep an eye on your data usage.
You should remember that while Viasat does provide a max speed of 100 Mbps, its availability depends on your location. So, make sure to inquire about available plans beforehand.
Unlimited Data Plans
Although Viasat doesn’t offer unlimited data despite the name, it still provides high data allowances, and if you exceed your data limit, your speed is throttled only during rush hours. If you are a heavy internet user, Viasat’s Unlimited Platinum 100 is the best plan for you with its 300 GB data allowance and high speed.
Affordable Liberty Plans
If you are a light internet user, then you subscribe to Viasat’s Liberty plans. With 12 Mbps speed 12 GB to 50 GB data allowances, these plans are ideal and affordable for light activities. You can also pay extra to add more data if you exceed your data limit. Although, keep in mind that 12 Mbps speed is not ideal for connecting multiple devices and high-quality streaming.
Viasat’s equipment consists of a satellite dish and router and offers two ways to pay for it. You can either rent its equipment for $13 a month or, you can pay an upfront $299 for a lifetime lease. It all depends on your situation, if you plan to stay with Viasat for a long time, then a lifetime lease is ideal for saving some money. Otherwise, a rental fee is a much better option.
HughesNet is known for its excellent value and consistent speeds and doesn’t hike up its plans after three months like Viasat. Its internet speed doesn’t fluctuate like Viasat, and no matter where the users are located, they’ll get 25 Mbps speed.
Plans and Pricing
HughesNet satellite internet plans are known for their straightforward prices. The cost of initial plans is extremely reasonable but skyrocket once you select a 30 GB or 40 GB plan. The good thing about HughesNet’s plans is that their prices don’t get hiked after mere months and remain the same for two years. You also get more value with HughesNet’s plans.
|Plan||Speed||Data Cap||Promotional Cost|
|15 GB||25 Mbps||15 GB||$64.99/month|
|30 GB||25 Mbps||30 GB||$74.99/month|
|45 GB||25 Mbps||45 GB||$109.99/month|
|75 GB||25 Mbps||75 GB||$159.99/month|
If you want to go for affordable plans then HughesNet’s 15 GB and 30 GB plans are ideal for you.
HughesNet has a positive reputation for providing promised or even faster internet speeds. Its speed is also faster than the average plans of Viasat.
HughesNet offers the option to buy more data in the form of data tokens. These tokens range from 3 GB to 25 GB and cost been $9 to $75. Although these tokens might seem like a good idea, in the beginning, their price can quickly add up if you are in constant need of extra data. The prices of these tokens are
- $9 for 3 GB
- $15 for 5 GB
- $30 for 10 GB
- $75 for 25 GB
If you are worried about accumulating prices of data tokens, then HughesNet has a solution for that in the form of Bonus Zone, which gives you extra 50 GB of data between 2 am to 8 am. You can easily enjoy heavy data activities during these non-rush hours.
HughesNet also offers two ways to pay for your equipment; a monthly rental fee or a one-time purchase. Where its monthly rental fee of $15 is pretty comparable to Viasat, its price of $449.98 for purchasing the equipment is much higher. You’ll also have to pay an installation fee.
Now that we have discussed the widely available satellite providers, let’s take a brief look at the upcoming satellite provider; Starlink.
Starlink is an upcoming satellite provider that is still in its testing phase. It is available only in specific areas as of now. If it is available in your area, its equipment will cost you $500 plus shipping and handling fee as it doesn’t have an equipment rental option yet. The monthly price of this provider is $99. Starlink has recently launched a premium plan with 500 Mbps speed and a hefty $2500 installation fee. The use low-Earth orbit satellite makes it comparatively much better than Viasat and HughesNet. Some of its features include:
- 150 Mbps high-speed internet
- 20-40 ms low latency
- Low-cost plans
- Unlimited data
Lack of network infrastructure is the main reason for the unavailability of wired internet services in many rural and remote areas, which forces people to turn towards satellite connections for internet access. Unlike wired internet services, satellite internet is accessible everywhere because it doesn’t depend on land-based infrastructure. As of now, HughesNet and Viasat are the two major satellite internet providers in the U.S with Starlink being in its testing phase.
Comparatively, Starlink seems a much better option with low latency, high speed, however, its limited availability and hefty equipment prices make everything uncertain. Viasat is a great pick with its wide range of plans with high internet speeds and more data, while Viasat offers greater value with its consistent speed.