Starlink uses new low-orbit technology to deliver satellite internet to customers around the globe. The company got its start offering faster speeds and much lower latency than other satellite providers, but now offers download speeds comparable to those offered by other satellite providers. Starlink still offers decently low latency for satellite, but it can’t compete against fiber or cable internet providers.
This budget internet provider offers DSL, cable, and fiber internet at a low price. However, TDS doesn’t guarantee advertised speeds, and the quality of service will likely vary by location and connection type. If you want the highest speeds, guaranteed speeds, or unlimited data, this might not be the provider for you, but if you can get fiber, it’s worth a look.
Starlink offers a variety of internet plans in four main categories: Standard, Priority, Mobile, and Mobile Priority. Its Standard plan is decent for home internet if you don’t have any fiber or cable internet options, but it will cost $90–$120. The Mobile plan is intended for RVs and travelers. These standard plans aren’t subject to official data caps, which is a nice change! If you go with the mobile option, you can pause it month to month but your traffic will be deprioritized relative to home and priority users.
Starlink’s most expensive plans are now named Priority plans, and there’s one for fixed locations and one for use on the go. Both have data caps, and both require a spendy high-performance receiver. Both plans cost at least $250 per month, with increased rates if you need more high-speed data. That’s some of the most expensive prices we’ve seen for internet anywhere, so these plans are pretty hard to recommend for most households.
Satellite internet provider Viasat has plans that are priced similarly to Starlink's standard options, but with data caps and much higher latency. That means that, while you can get a Viasat plan of 100 Mbps in some places, your connection will still feel very slow because it takes so long for data to get to and from the high-orbit satellites. HughesNet, the other big satellite provider in the US, has pricing similar to Starlink's but strict data caps and download speeds that reach only 25 Mbps.
Even with its benefits compared to other satellite providers, Starlink earned a pretty low score on value because the service is much slower and more expensive than home internet from cable or fiber internet providers. It doesn’t compete very well against DSL or fixed wireless internet either, but it’s a decent option of last resort if you are a digital nomad or live in a rural area.
TDS’s DSL, cable, and fiber internet range from a superslow 1 Mbps to a superfast 2 Gbps, with over a dozen plans in between. Prices vary by location, but most seem to come in below US benchmarks for comparable broadband speeds (1) and are cheaper than similar plans from Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox.
Our favorite things about TDS prices is that in some locations, we've seen a "price for life" guarantee. That means the price you sign up at is the same price you'll pay as long as you're a customer. Since most providers have significant price hikes after a year or two of service, being able to lock in your price is a huge deal—and a big reason to stick with instead of switching to a different internet company.
We interviewed Marci-Ray, a TDS fiber customer since 2020. In a household with multiple gaming consoles and smart home devices, she’s been very pleased with the reliability and price of the 300 Mbps fiber plan: “For the value of the speed and the price…it’s great. I’m very happy with that.”
Unfortunately, not all TDS customers have had the same experience. We’ve seen some customer complaints about slower-than-advertised speeds, meaning that customers aren’t getting what they paid for, especially on DSL or cable plans. If you opt for a higher plan to account for that (which is what TDS recommends if you don't see the speeds it advertises), you may end up paying more than you would somewhere else for the same speed.
Starlink once offered download speeds that were much, much faster than what satellite competitors could offer, but the company changed its plans and pricing in May of 2023. Today, the service sells home internet with download speeds of 25–100 Mbps, upload speeds of 5–10 Mbps, and latency in the range of 25–50 ms. Those speeds look fast enough for gaming and video conferencing on paper, but third-party research from Ookla found that Starlink users are getting average download speeds of about 66 Mbps, upload speeds of nearly 8 Mbps, and latency of a 62 ms in the first quarter of 2023. That kind of service might be good enough for online shopping or even streaming one show in high definition, but you wouldn’t be able to make video calls, play some online games, or livestream your gameplay. (1)
That same study showed Starlink performed better on all speed metrics than competitors Viasat or HughesNet, but was worse than cable and fiber providers across the board. Unfortunately, Starlink speeds are slowing as the company adds new subscribers because of network congestion. The change in plan offerings is the best evidence of that, but it's not hopeless. The company has launched nearly 4,000 satellites and is planning new launches with updated V2 equipment it says will improve reliability and handle much more bandwidth. (2)
TDS says you could see speeds “up to” your plan’s max, which isn’t uncommon of internet service providers, but TDS seems to get a lot of complaints from customers seeing much lower speeds than advertised. And if you’re not happy with the speeds you’re seeing, TDS’ solution is to switch to a lower-level plan, and it’ll waive its usual $15 fee for switching plans mid-contract. But if you ask us, this feels like an ineffective solution since lower-level plan speeds aren’t guaranteed either. You could end up with even lower speeds, albeit at a lower cost.
If TDS fiber is available in your area, you should see more consistent speeds since fiber-optic technology is more reliable all around. One customer who switched from Spectrum cable service to TDS fiber in the Madison, WI area told us that TDS has been far more reliable for them, with fewer slowdowns and outages.
Depending on your location, your TDS plan might come with unlimited data. Or it might come with a data cap of 500 GB and overage fees if you go over that. This cap is pretty low, considering most people use around 500 GB per month all on their own. Unless you live alone, it won’t be enough. And if you use less than 500 GB, the extra won’t roll over.
Unlike other satellite internet providers, Starlink does not require (or even offer) professional installation. Instead, you will be sent a Starlink Kit that contains all the hardware you need to install a Starlink dish yourself. Although the kit comes with a satellite dish and a base, you may want to purchase a mount to place the dish above ground level for a clearer view of the sky.
If you need internet while traveling, you'll need one of Starlink’s mobile plans. If you don’t need to use the receiver while you’re traveling faster than 10 miles per hour, you can stick with the basic $600 model. If you need internet while your RV or boat is moving, though, you’ll need one of the Mobile Priority plans and the required high-performance receiver.
To install Starlink, download the app on your phone and follow the instructions to find an unobstructed view and complete the setup. The do-it-yourself installation is designed to be straightforward, but it can take several hours. If technical issues arise, you can turn to Starlink customer support or an unofficial online community for help.
Unlike HughesNet and Viasat, Starlink doesn’t offer a leasing option for its equipment in the US, or require an activation fee. Instead, customers have to buy the basic Starlink Kit for a high upfront cost of $599. That averages to about $25 per month if you spread the cost over two years, which is more than you would pay for Viasat or HughesNet equipment. If you need the high-performance Starlink kit because of either extreme weather or your Priority service plan, setup starts at $2,500 before taxes.
TDS offers two equipment options, which you purchase and pay down each month. A standard modem and Wi-Fi router combo is $10/month, and Wi-Fi+ is around $20/month. Wi-Fi+ comes with a modem plus an eero Wi-Fi home base and one mesh extender—all of which should give you 2,500 sq. ft. of signal, which isn’t too bad. (2) TDS recommends adding an extender ($5) for every additional 1,000 feet beyond that. This system comes with a smartphone app that makes managing your Wi-Fi easy.
Self-installation is free and takes about 15 minutes, but it’s available in only some locations. In others, professional installation is required for no additional charge. However, if self-installation is available in your area and you still want professional help, it’ll cost you around $50.
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Starlink’s customer support seems to be struggling to keep up with the needs of its growing customer base. Along with sometimes inconsistent speeds and connectivity issues, this is leading to mixed experiences with the service.
Elon Musk, CEO of Starlink, recently said delays were most common in highly populated areas, but rural areas are the best place for the service, anyway. (3) There have also been reports of long delays in receiving Starlink equipment due to the effects of the global chip shortage on production. (4) Some customers who pre-ordered Starlink kits have had to wait more than a year to receive them and received few updates from the company (5), but you can look up your address using this Starlink map to find out what to expect.
Other internet providers tend to offer more customer support options and be more reachable than Starlink. Starlink’s website offers a customer support FAQ section, but there is no public contact phone number or email address. To contact the company directly for assistance, you have to log in and send customer support a message. On the plus side, it is possible to find help elsewhere. Starlink has an enthusiastic community of users who post helpful videos on YouTube and answer questions on Reddit.
Like most internet service providers, TDS gets mixed reviews from customers, but overall it seems about average. You’ll get around-the-clock tech support, including phone calls, online chat, and remote internet sessions (during which a technician logs into your computer remotely to troubleshoot your connection).
If you want help with more than your connection, you can pay around $13 per month for a Remote PC Support subscription. With it, you can get help with network security, optimizing your computer, and setting up your devices. Without the subscription, you’ll pay around $50 each time you need these services. If you’re tech savvy, you’ll save a lot by skipping the subscription. But if you think you’ll need help at least once per quarter, the subscription will be cheaper.
When we interviewed a current customer about their experience with TDS customer support, they said that TDS was very responsive, clearly explained what was happening, and fixed connection issues for them without charging for the service.
They were also able to negotiate their internet price back down after their promotional price ended. TDS customer service recommended setting a calendar reminder to call in again each time the promo pricing was close to running out. It’s less convenient than just getting the lower price consistently, but we appreciate the willingness to bring prices back down.
The one downside the customer mentioned was the lack of a dedicated app for managing their service and billing—something many other providers already provide.