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Rural Surfing: A Review of the Best Satellite Internet Providers

Even with all the advances made to high-speed internet, if you live in the mountains, in a barn, or you are just located in the country, getting internet can be a hassle. In fact, cable and fiber-optic service probably won't even get out to you. So what do you do? Just trust that you'll never need the internet? That's not likely. You could always get a mobile hotspot by using a phone or small device that gives you limited, and slow, internet.

Instead, consider using satellite internet. Yes, satellite is more than just high-quality movie channels. It's taken a few years for this specific technology to become stable. Even just five years ago, you were lucky if you could get 1 Mbps. Most of the time, it was dial-up speeds and people thought it would quickly fade away.

Fast forward to today and you can get internet in almost any part of the country by using satellite services. Like a cell phone service, you are limited to speed and the amount of bandwidth you can use a month, but if you live in a rural area and need internet, this is your best bet. Check out our list below for the best satellite internet providers and what they have to offer...

Viasat Plans

RANK: #1: Viasat
First seen: 2012
Prices start at: $49.99 ("Classic 10" plan)
Max Speeds: 12 Mbps download, 3 Mbps upload
Max Bandwidth: 25 GB anytime (plus free from midnight-5am)

Our rating: 4.8/5

Viasat (Exede) isn't the most common name among satellite internet services, but they have a strong case for the best service. The basic pricing starts at $49.99 a month for a 1- or 2-year contract. There are ways around the contract, but they usually waive installation fees when you enroll. Activation fees are almost $150, which is higher than other services.

You can get the service by itself or you can bundle with DirecTV. This is a good path to take because you're going to pay anywhere from $25 to $44 a month, depending on a 12- or 24-month agreement. Not only does this save you at least $10 a month on your bill, you're going to get some quality television channels as well and depending on who installs the service, you can waive a few installation fees as well.

As we detail in our Viasat (Exede) review, their starter plan gives you 12Mbps of download speeds and you can go all the way up to 100 Mbps, depending on where you live. Upload speeds average 5 - 20 Mbps, which is quite good for satellite services. Because it is a satellite, if you go over the allotted amount of bandwidth, they will throttle your speeds. This same type of reduction you see with cell phone services. So if you get 10Mbps on average and you go over, you can expect to see speeds of 1.3Mbps or slower, usually slower.


RANK: #2: dishNET
First seen: 2012
Prices start at: $39.99 (bundled with DISH TV)
Max Speeds: 10 Mbps download, 2 Mbps upload
Max Bandwidth: 15 GB anytime (plus 15 GB bonus/month)

Our rating: 4.5/5

DISH is relatively new to the game of satellite internet service. In fact, they weren't even around a few years ago but if you already have DISH and want to add internet to your home, this is it. You can pick from plans starting at $39.99 a month and go up to $70 a month. This will give you 5GB, 10GB, or 15GB of anytime data plus bonus data that's equal to the base amount. So no matter what plan you get, dishNET will double the data you get every month.

DISH speeds are a little slower than others. The max speed you will get is 10 Mbps but that's the same as 4G speeds you get on your phone. This allows you to watch movies, stream music, and browse the web at your convenience. And because it's bundled with DISH TV, you don't have to worry about paying two separate bills.

dishNET has the lowest installation fees of any service and depending on the package you choose, they will waive activation costs as well as not force you into any annual contracts.


RANK: #3: HughesNet
First seen: 1996
Prices start at: $39.99 ("Connect" plan)
Max Speeds: 15 Mbps download, 2 Mbps upload
Max Bandwidth: 20 GB anytime (plus 20 GB bonus/month)

Our rating: 4.5/5

As the most popular name in satellite internet services, HughesNet offers you a variety of packages and stable service. The Connect plan gives you 5 Mbps download speeds and 1Mbps upload speeds. This isn't fast by any stretch, but you can still browse the web, stream Netflix, and listen to music and is great for smaller families. You do have to be careful with this lower plan on Netflix because streaming HD video will give you three hours max of viewing. So go ahead and turn off the HD setting when streaming.

They have a few other plans that give you 10/2 Mbps and 15/2 Mbps. The fastest one does cost a pretty penny at $119 every month for three months. But if you have a lot of kids using social media and posting pictures of their food, it may be worth it. Every plan gives you "bonus bytes" which can add anywhere from 5GB to 20GB of usage per month. This means if you have a Power MAX plan with 20GB anytime bytes, you get an extra 20GB per month. As with any service, if you go over, your speeds will drastically drop.

What stands out about HughesNet is the lack of yearly contracts. You sign up for three months and that's it. After that, it is month to month.

Final Thoughts

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We'd like to point out that even at the higher speeds, these services isn't meant for people who game or stream non-stop. Especially gaming, you will chew up a lot of bandwidth really quickly. Sometimes it happens quicker than streaming HD video. If you use a satellite internet service, you may have to put a lid on gaming habits for a while. These services are meant to give people in rural areas access to the web to check email, send photos, maybe watch a few videos, and listen to some music.

That being said, you can see from our rankings who we trust more with our buck. It was difficult to rate them due to them all having benefits that outweigh the other services. Depending on if you just want internet or are looking to bring internet and satellite TV to your home, you have a few options to choose from. Just remember you are limited to the amount of data you use and treat it like a cell phone service and you'll never get throttled.

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