Popular Internet Service Providers

For consumers in rural areas, satellite internet is often more readily available than other types of internet, like cable or fiber. While satellite internet tends to be slower, it’s a reliable option if other types of internet infrastructure don’t exist in your area. As long as you have an unobstructed view of the southern sky, you’ll likely be able to connect to the internet using a satellite internet service provider. We’ve evaluated the best satellite ISPs as well as what you should consider when looking for a plan.

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We’ve compared internet service providers that offer satellite internet connections based on factors including fees, download speed, upload speed, availability, and bundles and discounts. The overall placement of the company in the Best Internet Service Providers of 2022 determines its place within the best satellite subrating.

Best Satellite Internet Providers of 2022

HughesNet Internet

Best ISP for Rural Areas 

Hughesnet is best for:

  • Those in rural areas with no other options

  • Light internet users with 5 devices or less

  • Customers who don’t need a lot of speed

Hughesnet is not recommended for:

  • Online gamers or people who stream large amounts of video

  • People who work from home and use video conferencing

Connection Type
Satellite

Download Speed
25 Mbps

Bundles
Internet, Voice Bundle (VOIP)

HughesNet: HughesNet is our top choice for satellite internet service. This provider also ties at No. 8 in our Best Internet Service Providers of 2022 and No. 1 in our Best Internet Service Providers for Rural Areas. HughesNet offers plans ranging from $64.99 to $149.99, with download speeds of 25 Mbps and upload speeds of 3 Mbps across all plans. Data caps range from 10 GB to 50 GB depending on the plan.

See Full Review »

Viasat Internet

Viasat is best for:

  • People without access to DSL, fiber, or cable internet

  • People who mostly use the internet to surf the web and check email

  • Those looking to bundle services

Viasat is not recommended for:

  • People who enjoy streaming videos

Connection Type
Satellite

Download Speed
12 Mbps – 100 Mbps

Bundles
Internet, TV, or Phone

Viasat: Viasat is our second choice for satellite internet service providers. Like HughesNet, Viasat tends to be available in more rural or remote areas. The provider also ties at No. 12 in our Best Internet Service Providers of 2022 and places fifth in our Best ISPs for Rural Areas. Plans from Viasat start at $39.99 and go up to $149.99. Download speeds range from 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps, with upload speeds of 3 Mbps and unlimited data for all plans.

See Full Review »

Available in:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District Of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District Of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

See all

While satellite internet can be slower and less reliable than cable or fiber internet, its geographic reach is much more extensive. According to the 2018 American Community Survey, more than 8.4 million households connect to the internet using a satellite internet service provider. Satellite internet service subscription rates tend to be higher in areas where terrestrial internet and mobile internet are not available.

HughesNet is available in all lower 48 states, as well as some areas in Hawaii and Alaska. According to the provider, anywhere that has a view of the southern sky is a candidate for internet service from HughesNet. Viasat is also available in all 50 states and claims to cover almost 98% of the U.S. population. Both service providers shine when it comes to providing internet to customers in rural and remote areas who may not have access to other types of internet.

Internet Speed of Fiber vs. DSL vs. Cable vs. Satellite

Features Fiber DSL Cable Satellite
Download Speed 0.2 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps 0.20 Mbps – 940 Mbps 10 Mbps – 2,000 Mbps 12 Mbps – 100 Mbps
Upload Speed 0.128 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps 0.128 Mbps – 940 Mbps 1 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps 3 Mbps
Latency 12 ms – 33 ms 19.5 ms – 51 ms 22 ms – 28 ms 610 ms
Packet Loss 0% – 1% 0% – 1% 0% – 1% >1%

*Speed usage data from FCC website.

Satellite internet is one of the slowest high-speed internet services available. While it can get to fixed broadband internet speeds (classified by the FCC as 25 Mbps or higher), it can’t reach the speeds cable and fiber optic can. Most satellite providers provide speeds between 25 and 150 Mbps, whereas cable and fiber can reach over 1,000 Mbps (1 gigabit per second). All the satellite providers in our ratings have upload speeds of 3 Mbps regardless of which plan you are on.

If your only other options are DSL and dial-up, satellite could be a better choice. It is often faster than DSL in rural areas (as DSL slows down the further it is from a central station) and is definitely faster than dial-up internet. Essentially, satellite internet is for users who don’t have another high-speed option. Even if you are in an area where satellite internet can offer speeds up to 50 or 100 Mbps, the latency inherent in a signal that has to go into space and back makes common activities like online gaming and video conferencing essentially unusable. Moreover, low data caps at higher speeds mean you won’t be able to stream Netflix for hours.

Satellite internet is one of the more expensive forms of internet and also has more restrictive data caps and speeds when compared with other internet options, like cable or fiber. That said, it’s sometimes the only option for consumers who live in areas where these alternatives aren’t available. The high cost of satellite internet is partly due to the necessary equipment, which includes a satellite dish. Installation also tends to be more expensive, since satellite internet must be professionally installed for each new customer.

Unlike other types of internet plans, the cost of satellite internet plans varies depending on the amount of data you need. Plans with slower speeds and a smaller amount of data can cost as little as $39.99 per month, while plans with more data and higher speeds can cost up to $149.99 per month.

Viasat has the edge when it comes to price in our list of the best satellite internet providers. Plans start at $39.99 per month for 12 Mbps download speeds and can go up to $149.99 for its most expensive plan, which comes with 100 Mbps download speeds.

HughesNet has similar prices to ViaSat, but with a slightly higher starting price for their lowest tier. Prices start at $64.99 for a plan with a 10 GB data cap and 25 Mbps download speeds and can go up to $149.99 for a plan with a 50 GB cap and 25 Mbps download speed.

  1. Select an ISP: Because some satellite internet providers merged in recent years, your choices are fewer. See our Which Satellite Internet Service is Near Me? section above for more information.
  2. Choose a Plan: Pick a plan that meets your need for speed and budget. Explore bundled services, which can reduce your monthly bill.
  3. Schedule Installation: The FCC requires professional installation. Learn more in our How Do I Install Equipment for Satellite Internet Service? section below.
  4. Connect Devices: After the technician gets your internet service and Wi-Fi up and running, you can connect your wired and wireless devices.

What Do I Need for Satellite Internet Service?

  • Satellite Dish Antenna: The dish sends and receives internet data to a geostationary satellite in space. It’s about the same size as a satellite TV dish. The service provider supplies the dish, which works only with that service.
  • Southern Exposure: Geostationary satellites orbit above the earth’s equator, which is south of the continental U.S. For the dish antenna to communicate with the satellite, it needs an unobstructed view of the southern sky.
  • Cable: A RG6 coaxial cable connects the dish to the modem.
  • Modem: The modem communicates with the internet. It may come equipped with a built-in Wi-Fi router. A gateway device combines both modem and router.
  • Wi-Fi Router: This device uses radio frequency to create a wireless home network so you can connect devices like smartphones and tablets.
  • Amplifier (Optional): An amplifier can help boost the satellite signal between the dish and modem and reduce latency.
  • Web Browser: To surf the internet, you need a web browser. All major web browsers work with satellite internet, but some browsers are designed specifically for satellite internet, and load pages faster and save data.

Should I Buy or Rent Equipment for Satellite Internet Service?

Buying Equipment – Satellite Internet Service

Renting Equipment – Satellite Internet Service

  • You can choose a more powerful Wi-Fi router

  • You can create a more powerful wireless network

  • You can switch internet providers easier

  • Renting the modem is required

  • You’re guaranteed compatibility

  • You get technical support

  • What you can buy is limited

  • You’re on your own if it breaks or becomes outdated

  • It adds to your monthly bill

  • Rental fees could increase

  • You’ll be charged a fee for not returning equipment

Buying Equipment – Satellite Internet Service

  • You can choose a more powerful Wi-Fi router

  • You can create a more powerful wireless network

  • You can switch internet providers easier

  • What you can buy is limited

  • You’re on your own if it breaks or becomes outdated


Renting Equipment – Satellite Internet Service

  • Renting the modem is required

  • You’re guaranteed compatibility

  • You get technical support

  • It adds to your monthly bill

  • Rental fees could increase

  • You’ll be charged a fee for not returning equipment

You should rent or purchase your equipment for satellite internet service from the ISP. The dish antenna and modem are configured specifically to work with your internet provider’s system. You cannot buy a modem off the shelf and make it work; nor can you buy and install your own dish antenna. Because the dish antenna both sends and receives data, the FCC requires that it be installed by a certified technician.

The ISP-supplied modem may have a built-in Wi-Fi router (this combo device is called a gateway). You’re not obligated to use the router. You can turn it off and purchase a better one to create a more powerful wireless home network. You won’t save money, however, because you still have to pay the monthly rental fee for the other equipment.

Renting equipment gets you technical support and a router that is guaranteed to be compatible. If you terminate service and don’t return the equipment, you’ll be charged a fee. Monthly rental fees could increase, as well.

You can buy your equipment from some satellite ISPs if you prefer. You’ll pay more upfront, but over time you can recoup that money and save on future bills. Contact the satellite internet provider to learn if this is available and who is responsible should equipment break or need upgrading.

Self-installing satellite internet equipment:

  • Is possible only with your own Wi-Fi router

Hiring a professional to install satellite internet equipment:

  • Keeps the equipment warranty intact

  • Ensures the satellite dish is aligned and operating properly

The FCC requires that a certified technician install your satellite internet system. The dish antenna typically is installed on the side of your house, the roof, or a pole near the house where it has a clear line of sight to the southern sky. You’ll have input on where it is placed.

The technician then routes cable from the dish to the gateway device (a combination modem-router) inside the home, configures your primary computer, and enables home Wi-Fi. Connecting your mobile devices to the Wi-Fi network may cost extra, though this step is generally easy enough for most people to manage on their own. Installation typically takes a few hours and is free, although non-standard or complex installations may incur fees.

The technician may be employed by a third-party contractor. If you perform any part of the installation, the equipment warranty will be voided.

The exception is with the Wi-Fi router. You can install your own Wi-Fi router instead of using the one built into the gateway device to have a stronger Wi-Fi signal on your property. Turn off the built-in router and follow installation instructions provided by the router manufacturer.

Satellite internet is good for:

  • People who don’t have access to cable

  • Connecting five or fewer devices

  • Moderate internet activities (streaming lower definition video, checking email, web browsing)

Cable internet is good for:

  • Heavy-data internet activities (online gaming, high-definition video streaming, uploading large files)

  • Households with six or more connected devices

  • Getting affordable high-speed internet in select areas

Satellite is the best choice when the only broadband option is a slower DSL or mobile (cellular) connection. It supports moderate internet use: streaming video and performing basic online activities. Data limits make it unsuitable for binge-watching high-definition video, and its high latency (delays) impedes fast-paced multiplayer gameplay.

Cable is faster and has lower latency. It’s best for households with multiple people who use the internet simultaneously for online gaming, video streaming, and sharing large files. It’s also best if you have lots of devices connected to the internet at once. In many areas, starting prices for cable internet plans are less than what you’ll pay for satellite internet. Cable, however, is not available everywhere. Just over half of rural areas have the option to choose cable broadband, according to the FCC.

Satellite internet is good for:

  • People who don’t have access to DSL

  • When available DSL internet plans are slow

DSL internet is good for:

  • Households that can’t get a strong enough satellite signal

  • Gamers who want less lag during gameplay

  • Faster uploads for cloud backups and sharing videos

Satellite internet is available nearly everywhere, including places where DSL isn’t a choice or for households far from the central hub that experience super slow DSL service. It lets you get internet now, instead of waiting for an internet provider to run wires or cables to your neighborhood.

In general, however, DSL is faster than satellite. Its speed is more consistent, and the latency is significantly lower. For gamers, this means less lag time for real-time first-person gameplay. Because DSL transmits data through a home’s telephone line, you don’t need a satellite dish installed. You also can buy equipment to run DSL, whereas you must rent equipment from a satellite ISP.

Best Internet Service Providers

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Why You Can Trust Us: 25 Internet Service Providers Researched

At U.S. News & World Report, we rank the Best Hospitals, Best Colleges, and Best Cars to guide readers through some of life’s most complicated decisions. Our 360 Reviews team draws on this same unbiased approach to rate the products that you use every day. To build our ratings, we researched more than 25 internet service providers and analyzed 13 reviews. Our 360 Reviews team does not take samples, gifts, or loans of products or services we review. All sample products provided for review are donated after review. In addition, we maintain a separate business team that has no influence over our methodology or recommendations.

The following describes our 360 approach to researching and analyzing internet service providers to guide prospective consumers.

1. We researched the companies and products people care most about.

U.S. News analyzed and compared a variety of publicly available data, including internet search data, to determine which internet service providers consumers are most interested in. We found 25 companies that stood out for further evaluation using the volume of searches and consumer research. After conducting a thorough analysis, we were able to condense the initial list to the 12 overall Best Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Taking a step further, out of the top 12 ISPs, we determined which is best by connection type, the best for gaming using latency (provided by the Federal Communications Commission) as a parameter, the best for rural areas, the best prepaid plans, and the cheapest in terms of the lowest regular rate. Fastest ISPs was also another sub-category to consider, but without the proper speed testing platform, this could not be captured appropriately. 360 Reviews instead offered consumers the fastest publicized ISP plans provided by our overall Best Internet Service Providers. With the companies determined, we researched their most important features to create a general layout of what consumers should know to assist with their purchasing decisions.

We compared the various plans, along with the monthly costs and associated fees that each company provided relative to its customers’ needs. The plans highlighted features such as connection type, download/upload speed, and data caps. We also considered the latency, consistency, and packet loss data provided by the Federal Communications Commission in regards to connection type and ISPs for gaming. With these factors in mind, we created a thorough set of guides that provides a 360 overview of what consumers should consider.

2. We created an objective 360 Overall Ratings based on an analysis of third-party reviews.

Our scoring methodology is based on a composite analysis of the ratings and reviews published by credible third-party professional and consumer review sources. The ratings are not based on the personal opinions, tests, or experiences of U.S. News. To calculate the ratings:

(a) We compiled two types of third-party ratings and reviews:

Professional Ratings and Reviews: Many independent evaluating sources have published their assessments of internet service providers and products online. We consider several of these third-party reviews to be reputable and well-researched. However, professional reviewers often make recommendations that contradict one another. Rather than relying on a single source, U.S. News believes consumers benefit most when these opinions and recommendations are considered and analyzed collectively with an objective, consensus-based methodology.

Consumer Ratings and Reviews: U.S. News also reviewed published consumer ratings and reviews of internet service providers. Sources with a sufficient number of quality consumer ratings and reviews were included in our scoring model.

Please note that not all professional and consumer rating sources met our criteria for objectivity. Therefore, some sources were excluded from our model.

(b) We standardized the inputs to create a common scale.

The third-party review source data were collected in a variety of forms, including ratings, recommendations, and accolades. Before including each third-party data point in our scoring equation, we standardized it so that it could be compared accurately with data points from other review sources. We used the scoring methodology described below to convert these systems to a comparable scale.

The 360 scoring process first converted each third-party rating into a common 0 to 5 scale. To balance the distribution of scores within each source’s scale, we used a standard deviation (or Z-Score) calculation to determine how each company that a source rated was scored in comparison to the source’s mean score. We then used the Z-Score to create a standardized U.S. News score using the method outlined below:

Calculating the Z-Score: The Z-Score represents a data point’s relation to the mean measurement of the data set. The Z-Score is negative when the data point is below the mean and positive when it’s above the mean; a Z-Score of 0 means it’s equal to the mean. To determine the Z-Score for each third-party rating of a company, we calculated the mean of the ratings across all companies evaluated by that third-party source. We then subtracted the mean from the company’s rating and divided it by the standard deviation to produce the Z-Score.

Calculating the T-Score: We used a T-Score calculation to convert the Z-Score to a 0-100 scale by multiplying the Z-Score by 10. To ensure that the mean was equal across all data points, we added our desired scoring mean (between 0 and 10) to the T-Score to create an adjusted T-Score.

Calculating the common-scale rating: We divided the adjusted T-Score, which is on a 100-point scale, by 20 to convert the third-party rating to a common 0-5 point system.

(c) We calculated the 360 Overall Score based on a weighted average model.

We assigned “source weights” to each source used in the consensus scoring model based on our assessment of how much the source is trusted and recognized by consumers and how much its published review process indicates that it is both comprehensive and editorially independent. The source weights are assigned on a 1-5 scale. Any source with an assigned weight less than 2 was excluded from the consensus scoring model.

Finally, we combined the converted third-party data points using a weighted average formula based on source weight. This formula calculated the consensus score for each product, which we call the 360 Overall Rating.

Cheap internet service providers should be affordable to most people. For this subrating, we gathered the lowest monthly cost plans of each company and compared them to each other to determine the cheapest internet service providers.

The Fastest High-Speed internet service providers should also be able to provide fast service. For this subrating, we looked at the highest plan from each company and compared their speeds.

Internet service providers have different types of internet such as fiber internet. We gathered companies that have fiber internet and scored them by their overall ranking.

Internet service providers also have prepaid option plans. We included companies that have prepaid plans and scored them by their overall ranking.

Internet service providers have different types of internet such as DSL. We included companies that have DSL internet service and scored them by their overall ranking.

Internet service providers have different types of internet such as satellite. We included companies that have satellite internet and scored them by their overall ranking.

Internet service providers have different types of internet such as cable. We included companies with cable internet and scored them by their overall ranking.

Gaming with the internet is highly dependent on latency. The lower the latency is, the better the internet plan is for gaming. We scored the best internet providers for gaming based on how low their latency is.

Internet service providers are found in various areas. For rural areas, we scored the companies based on how far they provide services to, specifically rural areas.

U.S. News 360 Reviews takes an unbiased approach to our recommendations. When you use our links to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.