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TDS Telecom vs. Viasat Internet plan comparison


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Rebecca Palmer smiles for the camera
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Researched by
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Reviewed by
Bri FieldAssigning Editor
Updated 6/18/24

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TDS Telecom brand
Staff rating
3.5
Customer rating
3.2
(8)

  • Plans starting at $38.95
  • Download speeds up to 1000 Mbps
Viasat
Staff rating
2.2
Customer rating
3.7
(4)

  • Plans starting at $30.00
  • Download speeds up to 100 Mbps
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TDS Telecom brand
Staff rating
3.5

Inconsistent speeds for the price, but it’ll do

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.

What we like

  • Several plan options
  • Fiber in some areas
  • Easy installation
What we dislike

  • Complaints about speed
  • Self-setup not available everywhere
  • Contract required
Savings tip: TDS Telecom often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
Viasat
Staff rating
2.2

Widely available satellite internet with speeds faster than HughesNet

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 can't match Starlink for upload speed and latency.

What we like

  • Fast speeds for satellite
  • Variety of plans
  • Wide availability
What we dislike

  • High prices
  • Caps on high-speed data
Savings tip: Viasat often has sign-up promotions for first-time customers. Call to ask a rep about current deals and discounts.
Check deals
TDS Telecom brand
Value
3.5
Low prices, but varying value

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.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
TDS Telecom's website
or call 1-844-726-0721 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
Viasat
Value
1.5
Better value than HughesNet

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 500 GB of high-speed data, is the best plan for larger households. 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 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.

Pricing details vary by location. Visit
Viasat's website
or call 1-833-754-1212 to speak with a rep.
See pricing
TDS Telecom brand
Performance
3.0
Speeds not guaranteed

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.

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-844-726-0721 to speak with a TDS Telecom rep or
go to its website.
Viasat
Performance
2.0
Handles everything from browsing to streaming, but data limits will hold you back

Of the two main satellite internet providers in the US, Viasat offers faster 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 100Mbps) 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)

Available speeds vary by location. Call 1-833-754-1212 to speak with a Viasat rep or
go to its website.
TDS Telecom brand
Equipment and installation
4.5
Low-cost equipment and installation options

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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Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
TDS Telecom plans
available in your area.
View plans
Viasat
Equipment and installation
2.5
Lease equipment for a fair price and get started quickly with professional installation

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.

Equipment and installation options can vary widely depending on
Viasat plans
available in your area.
View plans
TDS Telecom brand
Customer experience
3.0
Extra help if you need it—at a price

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.

Visit TDS Telecom's website
or call 1-844-726-0721 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
Viasat
Customer experience
3.0
Decent customer experience, even without paying extra for premium support

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.

Visit Viasat's website
or call 1-833-754-1212 for more information on contracts and money-back guarantees.
Go to provider
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TDS Telecom
3.2
(8)
5 Star
12%
4 Star
37%
3 Star
25%
2 Star
13%
1 Star
13%
S
Sheridanfrom Mounds, OK
TDS Telecom Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 8-29-2022
I’m just fine using TDS the speed and reliability is spot on
B
Beverlyfrom Hobbs, NM
TDS Telecom Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 6-22-2022
TDS provides my needs internet connection speed and capacity. Since we are all mature in the house, we don't do any gaming and live stream. We are also working most of the time, thus social media access from our side is mostly done only after work or during weekends.
S
Sherryfrom Milliken, CO
TDS Telecom Customer for Less than a year
Reviewed on: 6-22-2022
It took close to 6 months to get a permanent line and half of that to get a temporary line. They kept saying it would be done in a week. We have issues with speed and reliability on a weekly basis. The only reason we stay with them is they ae cheaper then Century link and they have the same issues.
J
Jefffrom Milliken, CO
TDS Telecom Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 6-17-2022
They have horrible customer service
Viasat
3.7
(4)
5 Star
50%
4 Star
25%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
25%
E
Elisabethfrom Stockton , CA
Viasat Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 5-7-2023
We've used Via sat for a few years and it's been nice. We have signal issues every once and a while but there really aren't very many options in the area we live. We are outside of town.
T
Terrifrom Knapp Creek, NY
Viasat Customer for 1+ years
Reviewed on: 4-20-2023
Viasat is one of the only providers I can get because we live away from town. We like it and it does what we need. We added a heater to the dish to help melt snow in winter and that has been a good thing.
H
Heribertofrom Newburgh, NY
Viasat Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 3-7-2023
We live just outside of where we can high speed internet and we thought we were going to not be happy with satellite internet. It's been really good for what we do with it. We are older and don't use it as much as some people do I'm sure, but I would recommend it if you can't get one of the big cable brands
J
Jamesfrom Decatur, IN
Viasat Customer for 4+ years
Reviewed on: 8-29-2022
I live in a rural area, and find my internet satisfactory. It is expense when you compare it to urban areas nearby, when you compare it to speed and reliability.
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Endnotes and sources
1. “2022 Urban Rate Survey – Fixed Broadband Service,” FCC. Accessed 9 December 2022.2. "TDS Wi-Fi+," TDS. Accessed 9 December 2022.
Endnotes and sources
1. “Starlink Hits 100+ Mbps Download Speed in 15 Countries During Q4 2021,” Ookla. Accessed 6 June 2022.2. “Viasat current problems and outages,” Downdetector. Accessed 6 June 2022.

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