Starlink has the fastest speed and lowest latency of any satellite internet service, but its availability and customer service lag behind competitors. While Starlink’s performance is impressive for satellite internet, it can’t compete with a traditional cable or fiber connection.
Kinetic by Windstream aims to bring better internet to rural and remote areas. While it offers one of the best values in internet service anywhere, it’s hampered by a mediocre customer experience.
Where it’s already available, Starlink is a solid alternative to other satellite internet providers. Starlink offers one home internet service plan at a flat price just over $100 per month. Starlink aims to provide download speeds of 50–250 Mbps, with speeds varying based on location, network congestion, and other technical factors. That’s up to $2.27 Mbps of speed per dollar.
While it’s more expensive than many cable or fiber plans, this is a great value compared to other satellite internet providers. HughesNet doesn’t offer speeds anywhere near as high, although some of its plans are cheaper than Starlink’s. Viasat’s highest service tier offers up to 100 Mbps download speeds, but still can’t compete on speed or price.
Like HughesNet and Viasat, Starlink has limits on how much high-speed data you can use during peak hours (7:00 am to 11:00 pm). You can get around it by logging on overnight or buying additional gigabytes of high speed data through the app.
Starlink sets itself apart, though, by being the only satellite internet company to offer an internet option for RV travelers. It costs just $25 more than the regular residential plan but may have slower speeds in busy areas.
Windstream’s Kinetic internet service offers a surprisingly strong value. Prices are competitive—in fact, the 1 gig plan ties Google Fiber as the most affordable option we’ve seen for gigabit download speed. They both cost just over 50% of the national benchmark for similar plans (1).
The advertised prices are for a 12-month introductory period and will increase in the range of about $15 after the first year. This practice of second-year price hikes used to be the norm, but the best fiber internet providers we review have abandoned the practice.
Overall, Windstream represents one of the best values in home internet if you can get fiber. It's also a good deal if you can get only DSL, but your speeds will be much slower.
Starlink certainly can’t compete with a fiber connection, but it is more than capable of outperforming other satellite providers. Starlink’s stated performance goals are 50–250 Mbps download speed, 10–20 Mbps of upload speed, and 20–40 ms latency. These are much more ambitious goals than what HughesNet or Viasat could achieve with their geostationary satellites, but Starlink’s low-earth orbit satellite technology lets it perform beyond the limits of other satellite providers.
There are still issues with the service, though. On Downdetector, Starlink customers report suffering from occasional outages and slowdowns and speeds are slowing as more and more customers sign up. (1) The US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has approved the launch of 7,500 more low-orbit satellites, though, so those average speeds could jump back up. (2)
According to Ookla’s satellite internet performance data from Q3 2023, Starlink outshines other satellite internet providers in terms of median download speed, upload speed, and latency. (3) Across the whole US, Starlink’s median download speed was 53 Mbps, down from about twice that the year before. That's still faster than HughesNet and Viasat, but about 100 Mbps slower than fixed broadband. While median download speed varied widely by location, it still remained within advertised ranges.
Starlink’s median upload speed (7.22 Mbps) was much higher than both HughesNet and Viasat. As expected, Starlink’s latency (67 ms) was remarkably lower than other satellite internet providers, but not as low as fixed broadband providers.
Kinetic by Windstream is a fiber and DSL internet service. Normally, that would mean two sides to the performance story—excellent speed, reliability, and consistency with fiber, and then DSL. That’s technically true of Windstream, but there’s a big “but” to consider.
The “but” is that Windstream is primarily targeted at rural areas, where other internet options may be limited to satellite or even dial-up (yes, that’s still a thing). In these markets, the Kinetic service can actually be a breath of fresh air—including its DSL. Plus, there are no data caps to worry about, which is a major limitation with satellite. Finally, the fiber performance is excellent, with speeds up to 2 gigs.
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 Starlink's kit for RVs.
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. 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, and that's higher than you'll pay for Viasat or HughesNet equipment. For a high-performance Starlink kit that can handle both freezing weather and temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the setup cost starts at $2,500 before taxes.
Windstream charges a pretty standard $10–$12 per month for equipment rental if you are in its fiber service area. This gets you a very usable wireless gateway.
If you are in a DSL area, you'll be charged a $10 monthly modem fee but will also need a router. You can technically bring your own equipment, but Windstream officially supports a very limited number of modems, so it might be easier just to rent one.
The Windstream professional installation fee seems very reasonable at first—just $35 (or free, with some promotions). However, there’s a $50 activation fee on your first bill that brings it more in line with other providers. If you need a phone jack installed, you’ll be charged another $65 on top of the other fees. Ouch.
You can install your DSL connection for free if you're home is already wired correctly, and online instructions make it a breeze.
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 Starling recently said delays were most common in highly populated areas, but rural areas were the best place for the service, anyway. (4) There have also been reports of long delays in receiving Starlink equipment due to the effects of the global chip shortage on production. (5) Some customers who pre-ordered Starlink kits have had to wait over a year to receive them and received few updates from the company (6), 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 does offer 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.
The customer experience with Windstream leaves something to be desired. The provider ranks low in independent industry benchmarks like the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) (2), with a score of 62 out of 100. This is slightly below the industry average of 64.
Customer reviews of Windstream are generally mixed, with some pointing out that since they are often the only decent choice in an area, they try to get away with the bare minimum customer service. Customers also complain about frequent outages that sometimes last for days (3). That said, if your only other option is satellite internet (with its high prices and higher latency), it may be worth dealing with less-than-stellar customer service.