Spectrum offers speedy, reasonably priced cable internet service, and a strong budget plan. We wish there were fewer fees attached, though.
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.
Spectrum service offers a solid value—particularly at the lowest tier. There are only three plans to choose from, which could either be a plus or minus depending on your perspective. In this case, we feel it’s a good thing: the plans are straightforward and easy to understand.
The lowest-tier plan offers speeds up to 300 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) at a decent price, according to government benchmarks (1). That's just $0.17 per megabit per second, with speeds that blow any DSL plan out of the water. The other two internet plans are less exciting, but still reasonably priced for the first year. After 12 months, your price could be up by $20 or more.
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.
Spectrum offers speedy performance overall, with packages up to 1,000 Mbps available (wireless speeds may vary). The lower tiers are more exciting—almost every provider has a gig plan these days, but Spectrum’s lowest plan has speeds up to 300 Mbps, which is still excellent for all but the heaviest users. Additionally, there are no data caps on any of the plans, so you can use as much bandwidth as you like.
Speed is only half the equation, though—even the fastest connection is useless if it doesn’t work when you need it. Luckily, Spectrum is on par with its closest cable competitors here. It offers faster-than-advertised speeds most of the time, according to the US Federal Communications Commission (2), and earned the top spot for median speeds from Speedtest.net (3). Spectrum’s latency scores were a little higher than competitors Xfinity and Cox, but at just 25 ms, you’re still within the playability range for most online games.
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)
Spectrum’s equipment setup is a bit different than most—at least when it comes to fees. There is no charge for the modem, but there is a $5 monthly fee for the wireless router (waived on the gig plan). What this means is that Spectrum gives you a separate modem and router, instead of a combined gateway. It also means you can opt to bring your own wireless router if you prefer. Customers can also add Wi-Fi extenders, called Pods, for $3 each per month. If you use the Spectrum router, you can use the company's highly-rated smartphone app to manage settings and parental controls.
Installation is straightforward and affordable. If you need a pro to come out, you can opt for a professional installation for $59.99. If you can handle the installation yourself, the self-install kit is about $25. We’d prefer free self-installation, but it isn’t the highest self-install fee we’ve seen, so we’ll take what we can get.
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.
We’ll just come right out and say it: Spectrum has a lot of fees. While you may never see most of them, it’s worth noting that they’re there. Here’s a sample:
These aren’t going to be on every bill, and you may never see most of them. However, when you do, it makes for a poor experience.
When you add second-year price hikes in the range of $20+, things aren't looking good for Spectrum customers. However, Spectrum customers seem to be about as satisfied with customer service as customers with competitors Cox and CenturyLink, and it's only slightly worse than average. (4)
If Spectrum is the only cable provider in your area and your home isn't wired for fiber internet, we recommend the service. Just set a calendar reminder to contact customer service in a year and see if you can negotiate the price down!
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.