Securing Reliable Internet in Rural Areas
What is Satellite Internet?
If you’ve ever lived in a rural area, you may know that it can be hard to secure reliable internet. This is because the most common type of internet in the United States is broadband, which is transmitted through wires (which are often lacking in rural areas). Satellite internet, on the other hand, is wireless, meaning it can be a great option for rural areas.
Satellite internet uses space satellites orbiting the earth to send and retrieve data. In the United States, three satellite internet providers currently exist: ViaSat, Starlink, and HughesNet.
ViaSat, launched in 2011, is one of the best satellite internet providers that offers services to nearly 100% of the United States. ViaSat uses geostationary satellites, which orbit in space at around 22,000 feet above the earth.
The height of these satellites is what allows such wide-ranging coverage. The starting price for a service plan with ViaSat is around $40 per month, increasing after the first three months and ranging up to about $170 per month. Equipment fees can be paid per month at $9.99 or at the beginning of a two-year contract at $299.99.
ViaSat offers four different service plans:
- Unlimited Bronze 12. This plan is best for casual internet users who connect to the internet mainly for browsing or using email and social media. This plan can support two small-screen devices and allows for 40 GB of high-speed data. The download speed is 12 Mbps and the monthly cost is $64.99.
- Unlimited Silver 25. This plan is best for moderate internet usage and light streaming and email use. This plan can support up to three small-screen devices and allows for 60 GB of high-speed data. The download speed is 25 Mbps and the monthly cost is $84.99.
- Unlimited Gold 50. This plan is best for small families and some streaming. This plan can support up to four large devices and allows for 100 GB of high-speed data. The download speed is 50 Mbps and the monthly cost is $119.99.
- Unlimited Platinum 100. This plan is best for large families with high internet usage who frequently browse and stream. This plan can support up to five large devices and allows for 150 GB of high-speed data. The download speed is 100 Mbps and the monthly cost is $169.99.
The U.S. New and World Report gives ViaSat Internet 3.2/5 stars. They state that ViaSat is popular for its wide-reaching coverage and ability to provide internet for people in rural areas. However, ViaSat’s downside is its connection speed, as it reportedly doesn’t work well for those with heavy internet usage and large streaming needs.
Starlink, which started becoming available to the public in 2021, is a satellite internet provider that offers coverage to most of the United States (and around 35 other countries). Unlike ViaSat, Starlink uses low-orbit satellites, which helps keep latency low.
This low latency does come with a higher price tag, as prices range from $110 per month to $5,000 per month and equipment fees start at around $600.
Starlink offers four main service plans:
- Starlink Residential Satellite. This plan is for individuals and families needing unlimited data and provides download speeds of up to 250 Mbps. The monthly cost of this plan is $110.
- Starlink RV Satellite. This plan provides immediate high-speed internet at any destination and even on the go. This plan also provides unlimited data with up to 250 Mbps download speeds. The monthly cost of this plan is $135.
- Starlink Business Satellite. This plan is best for commercial needs, has higher-speed internet and comes with 24/7 support. It also provides unlimited data with up to 250 Mbps download speeds. The monthly cost of this plan is $500.
- Starlink Maritime. This plan is designed for luxury yachts and other ocean vessels. It provides unlimited data and download speeds up to 350 Mbps. The monthly cost of this plan is $5,000.
Starlink has received stellar reviews for its fast download speeds and unlimited data. It reportedly has a much lower latency than its satellite competitors. Starlink’s downside is that the initial equipment is expensive (nearly double ViaSat’s equipment cost). Customers also have reported large wait times in receiving equipment and beginning service.
Similar to ViaSat, HughesNet uses geostationary satellites to provide users with internet data and also offers services to nearly 100% of the United States (along with a few other countries).
HughesNet’s plans start at about $50, increasing after the first six months and ranging up to about $150 per month. The monthly equipment lease is $14.99 while opting to purchase the equipment costs $499.99. The download speed, regardless of the plan is 25 Mbps.
The following plans are what HughesNet offers:
- Plan 1: This plan offers 15 GB of data and works well for customers who use the internet for basic needs, such as checking email. The monthly cost is $62.99.
- Plan 2: This plan offers 30 GB of data and works well for internet users with medium needs, such as browsing the internet. The monthly cost is $74.99
- Plan 3: This plan offers 45 GB of data and works well for heavier internet needs, such as streaming music. The monthly cost is $109.99.
- Plan 4: This plan offers 75 GB of data and works well for heavy internet users that frequently watch videos or download large documents. The monthly cost is $159.99.
- Plan 5: This plan offers 100 GB of data and works well for the heaviest internet users and large households. The monthly cost is $149.99
The U.S. New and World Report gives HughesNet internet 3.6/5 stars, ranking it slightly higher than ViaSat. They report that HughesNet is a good option for those in rural locations who don’t have access to other types of internet. They report that customers like the simple plans, but that they should expect slower internet speeds than those provided by their satellite internet competitors.