Google Fiber offers affordable gig speeds with no contracts, data caps, fees, or fuss. Unfortunately, it’s still hamstrung by extremely limited availability.
Viasat (formerly also Exede internet) can’t keep up with cable or fiber, but it’s a relatively fast and widely available choice for satellite internet. Viasat offers more speed and data than HughesNet, but you should also consider Starlink if it's available in your area.
Google Fiber internet is an excellent value for the money. There are only two plans: 1,000 Mbps (1 gig) for $70 per month and 2,000 Mbps (2 gigs) for $100 per month. The 1 gig plan is among the most affordable we’ve seen at that speed, costing a little more than half the national benchmark fro similar plans (1). The 2 gig option is also drastically cheaper than many other providers’ similar offerings (if they even have a 2 gig plan). There’s no budget option for those who don’t need speeds this fast, but for what Google does offer, the value is hard to beat.
In remote areas where cable and fiber aren’t available, satellite internet may be your only option. Viasat offers a wide range of satellite internet plans, but only some of them offer good performance and value for your money compared to other satellite internet providers.
The best plans are Viasat’s Unlimited plans. Those with at least 25 Mbps of speed and 100 GB of high-speed data will give you the ability to do basic web browsing. Viasat’s most expensive plan, with 150 Mbps of download speed and 300 GB of data, is the best plan for larger households or those who want to enjoy more video streaming. It also gives you the most data for your dollar.
We wouldn’t recommend Viasat’s Liberty plans because the internet speed and data limits are far too restrictive. If you don’t mind sacrificing a bit of speed or data usage to save money, HughesNet’s 25 Mbps plans are less costly than Viasat’s equivalent plans. For a similar price, Starlink can achieve higher speeds (up to 250 Mbps) and has lower latency than Viasat, though Starlink is available only in limited locations and has customer service issues.
It's also important to think about price hikes. With Viasat, all plan prices go up after three months, in the range of $20–$100 depending on your plan. You can't get out of these increases because you'll have to sign a contract. It's a bummer, but we like that prices are guaranteed for two years starting in month four.
Google Fiber is one of the fastest internet providers and offers excellent performance. The speeds are more than enough for even the heaviest users, and there’s enough bandwidth to power a whole household of HD streams. Since this is fiber, upload speeds are also excellent—1,000 Mbps on both plans. Unlimited data is the cherry on top of this delicious internet sundae. Our only knock is that some providers have started offering even faster speeds (though the majority of households won’t need more than what Google offers).
Of the two main satellite internet providers in the US, Viasat offers higher speeds (up to 150 Mbps). Viasat delivers good enough performance for basic web browsing and some light video streaming, but even its most expensive plans limit the amount of high-speed data you can use before speeds are throttled.
Additionally, both HughesNet and Viasat have very high latency. This latency, the delay that happens when data is traveling from the satellite to your home, makes even a 150 Mbps connection feel slow. Starlink, a new satellite internet provider, uses satellites closer to the earth, so it is able to offer even faster speeds (up to 250 Mbps) and much lower latency than Viasat. For now, Starlink isn’t available in as many locations and performance isn’t as consistent, but it has similar pricing to Viasat and could be a strong alternative for some.
In terms of real-world performance, Viasat slightly outperforms HughesNet in terms of upload speed and latency, according to data from Ookla. (1) Nevertheless, Viasat won’t ever be a better choice than a cable or fiber connection due to the inherent limitations of satellite internet. Viasat also suffers from outages, which can sometimes last days even when the sky is clear, according to user reports from Downdetector. (2)
Equipment is another area where Google Fiber really shines. Installation of the fiber jack is free, and there are no monthly fees for the network box, which functions as both a modem and router. This means that, outside of any state-imposed access fees, the advertised prices are what you’ll actually pay for broadband internet service. Many other providers end up costing $10–$15 more per month due to equipment rental fees, so this is a refreshing change of pace.
Additionally, Google doesn’t charge any sort of activation fee. This is another area where other internet providers sometimes get you—they advertise free installation, but charge a significant “activation fee” that negates the deal.
On paper, Google Fiber and its equipment are fantastic. We had to bump this score down, however, because of the slow pace of installation. Some customers complain of having to wait for months or even years to have fiber installed at their homes, even after the fiber-optic cables have been laid in their neighborhoods.
Getting a satellite internet connection up and running is more involved than a traditional wired connection. Viasat requires you to lease its equipment for $14.99 per month and have it installed professionally. The leasing and installation fees are about the same as HughesNet, and Viasat sometimes waives the $99 cost of installation for qualifying new customers. This is in contrast to Starlink, which requires you to pay several hundred dollars for its equipment upfront and install it yourself.
When you sign up for Viasat, you’ll usually get an appointment for installation within three to five days, and the process itself takes two to three hours. A technician will mount the dish where it can get the clearest view of the southern sky, either on your house or on a pole mount for $75 extra. Since the equipment is leased, when you cancel your service, you’ll be responsible for removing and returning the dish, transceiver, modem, cables, and any other hardware to Viasat.
Given the excellent speeds, (relatively) affordable pricing, and lack of fees, it’s safe to say that living with Google Fiber makes for a fantastic experience. For the most part, you can just do what you need to do online and forget that you even have an internet service provider, which is great. When Google anticipates a change to your account or service, it generally lets you know well in advance.
If you do end up needing support, you’re dealing with Google. In general, this means really good online help and so-so phone support. That said, we’ve seen comparatively few customer service complaints about Google Fiber, and our own experience with Google Fiber has been that we rarely need customer support anyway. The company claims (2) it topped results in over 20 categories in an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey, but the actual results of that survey don’t appear to be public, so all we have are anecdotes.
Something else that we love about Google Fiber is how straightforward the billing is. The monthly statements are very clear about how much you owe and when you’ll be charged compared to the sometimes confusing internet bills from other providers, so there’s no ambiguity about charges. You can also access your account and billing info using your Gmail login, so you don’t have to worry about yet another username and password.
Viasat customer service has a dedicated phone number, responsive online chat, and troubleshooting FAQs on its website for all its customers. This is similar to HughesNet’s customer support, and it surpasses Starlink’s lackluster customer service.
Viasat’s best customer service is reserved for those who pay an additional $8.99 per month for EasyCare. EasyCare gives you access to a priority support phone number, free service calls to your address, and discounted annual dish location adjustment. Viasat has additional offerings, including Viasat Voice (VoIP phone service), Viasat Shield (security software), and DISH (satellite TV)–but you won’t save much by bundling.