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.
Ziply offers great pricing for medium-to-large households and absurdly fast internet for power users. This provider has a few quirks, like hidden contracts and no self-setup, but if those don’t bother you, Ziply is a solid internet service provider in the Northwestern US.
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.
Overall, Ziply offers fast fiber internet at great prices. Its slowest plans (50 Mbps and 200 Mbps) are the best value, priced at 25% and 33% of the national benchmark, respectively. (1) Its 1 gig plan is relatively more expensive, but it still comes in under 45% of the national benchmark for similar plans. After introductory pricing ends, your monthly bill will increase by about $20 per month, but you’ll still pay less than average. Plus, you’ll get unlimited data.
If you want the absolute fastest internet possible, Ziply also offers 2- and 5-gig plans, but these come with much higher price tags. A 2-gig plan is nearly double the cost of a 1-gig plan (no bulk discount here), and a 5-gig plan is nearly 4 times the cost! (2) And there’s no introductory pricing for these blazing-fast plans. You’ll also need to spring for your own router (the Ziply one doesn’t support these speeds). 1 gig should be more than enough speed to cover the vast majority of households, so we don’t recommend springing for these plans unless you’re sure you need them.
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)
Ziply has a fiber optic network, which is the most reliable kind of infrastructure out there. Fiber also allows for faster speeds than any other kind of internet, including upload speeds that are just as fast as download speeds (AKA symmetrical speed). Unfortunately, Ziply’s 1-gig plan isn’t symmetrical, serving up only 35 Mbps for upload, and that’s a shame. Still, most families will find a symmetrical 200 Mbps connection plenty fast, while high-powered users can opt for a 2- or 5-gig symmetrical plan (though it’ll cost you big).
Other than that, Ziply performs pretty well. It typically uses only 40% of its infrastructure capacity (3), which means you’re less likely to see slowdowns during peak hours. However, Ziply has legacy DSL infrastructure in some rural areas and tends to perform slower than other DSL providers.
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.
Ziply’s equipment costs can add up. Its router/modem combo is a reasonable $10 per month, but its Whole Home Wi-Fi costs $20 per month. Sometimes, Ziply runs promotions that include Wi-Fi, so keep an eye out for those. Ziply’s Wi-Fi is Wi-Fi 6 technology, which is the best technology available. You can stream up to 12 devices at once (Wi-Fi 5 allows only up to 5). However, Ziply’s router isn’t compatible with its 2- and 5- gig plans. If you want one of these plans, you must BYO router, and not all routers are compatible, so be careful here.
Professional installation is free, which is great because Ziply doesn’t have a self-install option. Technicians will run cables from the street to your home, wire up your house, and set up your Whole Home Wi-Fi. The downside is technicians likely won’t get all this done in a single visit, so it might take a few weeks to get you up and running.
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.
We love that Ziply provides professional installation for free, but we’re bummed that it doesn’t even offer a self-setup option. Ziply has some great self-help content on its website for troubleshooting or changing out your router later—you just can’t use it to get started. Forcing you to use professional installation also means it takes longer to get started, and that’s tough if you’ve just moved to the area. If you’re not moving, it still means you’ll have to juggle your old service with Ziply installation times to avoid a gap in internet service.
We’re also not a fan of Ziply’s hidden contracts. It advertises no-contract plans, but if you read the fine print, you’ll pay early termination charges if you try to leave before your promotional plan ends. All that said, Ziply’s customer service is decent, and most negative reviews call out the same kinds of issues other providers get: billing disputes. (4)