How to Know If You Should Get Satellite Internet

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We’ve all heard about the traditional wired internet options — cable and DSL — but what about satellite internet?

Is it better than the alternatives? In some places it is the only option, so it’s obviously the best choice. Elsewhere, it depends.

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet is exactly what it sounds like — an internet connection through the use of a satellite. Think of it like satellite TV — you have a satellite dish on one end (your home) and the satellite on the other (in space). Data is transferred between the two.

The beauty of satellite internet is that it provides coverage virtually everywhere in the United States. Even if you live in a rural area or remote city that lacks broadband infrastructure, you’ll still be able to get connected to satellite internet. All you need is a dish.


Satellite internet promises to cover almost 100 percent of the U.S. while the other wired options are less comprehensive, according to the National Broadband Map data:

  • DSL: 90 percent coverage
  • Fiber: 25.4 percent coverage
  • Cable: 88.8 percent coverage

Satellite is a viable option — or the only option — for internet connection in many rural and remote areas.

While satellite internet is good for far-flung places, it may be a bad choice if you live in a densely populated city with a lot of tall buildings. The buildings could interrupt the signal to your dish, and a large number of people nearby sharing the satellite signal could slow your connection speeds.

Cost, data and speed

Satellite internet plans tend to be more expensive than other options, starting with high installation fees:

  • Viasat: $99.99
  • HughesNet: $449.98

After the installation fees, you can get satellite internet plans for as little as $30 a month, but that will buy you very limited data and drive-you-crazy-slow speeds.

You can get plans with speeds of up to 100 Mbps, which is more than enough for streaming videos in HD, playing online multiplayer games and having multiple people using the internet at the same time. But the price soars to about $150 a month. With a cable internet plan, you can enjoy higher speed — up to 1 Gbps — for about half that (in some areas).

The more expensive satellite internet plans typically offer unlimited data per month, which is great. But if you are flexible about your internet usage, you may be able to live with a less expensive plan which offers limited data — say 10 GB to 50 GB “peak data” per month. What is peak data? This is internet data that you use during “internet rush hour” — basically when most people are on the internet — usually around 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Once you’ve used up all of your peak data, your satellite internet speeds will be reduced to 1 to 5 Mbps, which is excruciatingly slow.

Customer reviews

Online customer reviews of satellite internet are mixed, but the more common complaints include:

  • Slow speeds (slower than promised)
  • Latency or speed lags
  • Unreliability
  • Installation problems

Should I get satellite internet?

In short, unless you live in a remote area, you will likely get more bang for your buck by choosing from cable, DSL and fiber options. Additionally, if you also want TV and/or home phone service, then choose an internet plan you can bundle because this will save you quite a bit of money. (Satellite internet plans do not offer bundling.)

Compare your internet options now to find the best plan for your home. Be sure to search based on your home address to find the plans available to you, as plans and carriers are specific to each locality.

What’s your experience with internet providers? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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