Best satellite internet providers of 2024 | CNN Underscored (2024)

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By Anna Baluch, Allaire Conte and Roxanne Downer, CNN Underscored

Published 11:18 AM EDT, Tue May 7, 2024

What's in this guide

  • Our picks at a glance
  • What didn’t make the cut
  • What is satellite internet?
  • How to choose a satellite internet provider
  • Pros and cons of satellite internet
  • How to optimize your satellite internet connection
  • Satellite internet alternatives
  • The future of satellite internet
  • Methodology
  • Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Best satellite internet providers of 2024 | CNN Underscored (1)

Satellite internet is quickly growing in popularity. If you live in a rural area, you may be considering it as an alternative to cable, fiber, DSL or other options that are not available to you. Fortunately, several satellite internet providers can give you a reliable connection.

We evaluated 22 companies based on their plan features, connection speeds, availability, customer service reputation, data privacy offerings and more to help you find the best internet service provider. We weighed various factors in each category to create our impartial star rating system. Companies that offered the most options, convenience and best speeds at the lowest prices scored the highest. Read our full methodology below.

  • 22 companies reviewed
  • 2,134 data points analyzed
  • 97 features we considered
  • 49 primary data sources used

Our picks

EarthLink: Best for affordability

HughesNet 2: Best for nationwide availability

Viasat 4: Best for bundling services

EarthLink: Best for affordable satellite internet

Best satellite internet providers of 2024 | CNN Underscored (2)

Star rating: 4.4 out of 5

Price: $49.95 - $89.95

Speed: Up to 100 Mbps

Data cap: Yes

Why we picked EarthLink

EarthLink offers a flat-fee pricing structure that can make it easy to budget for your internet service. Its rates are affordable compared to those of other satellite internet companies, which are well above $100 per month. Available in 48 states, EarthLink is one of the most widely available satellite internet providers and boasts about its internet speeds — up to 100 Mpbs — in rural areas.

However, EarthLink’s lower monthly fees are offset by its installation cost and $200 early contract termination fee. The company isn’t transparent about what it costs to install satellite internet services. Still, it does claim that “the price of EarthLink Satellite Internet helps balance out those initial startup costs.”

Who should use EarthLink

If you’re looking for the best deal on satellite internet, EarthLink should be on your radar. If you live in the country with limited internet access, EarthLink satellite services may be the one for you.

Pros

  • Easy to track your data usage on the EarthLink app
  • Offers EarthLink Protect, a cybersecurity plan that can help you reduce the risk of viruses and other common online threats
  • EarthLink Guardian makes parental controls easy

Cons

  • Not offered in Alaska or Hawaii
  • Works with other ISPs, so data outages are not in Earthlink’s control
  • Expensive early termination fee of up to $200

HughesNet: Best for nationwide availability

Best satellite internet providers of 2024 | CNN Underscored (3)

Star rating: 4.3 out of 5

Price: $49.99 - $124.99

Speed: Up to 100 Mbps

Data cap: No

Why we picked HughesNet

HughesNet is known for its wide coverage and offers satellite internet in all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Its plans are relatively affordable, at least for the first year. Most HughesNet satellite internet plans start at just $49.99 per month, but the price will increase after the first year of the required 24-month contract.

HughesNet offers unlimited data and a bonus that gives you access to high-speed data at no extra cost. The HughesNet Bonus Zone is 50 GB of extra high-speed data the company gives you during off-peak hours (2:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. your local time). We recommend scheduling downloads of updates, games, movies or any large file to start during the Bonus Zone hours.

Who should use HughesNet

If you’re having trouble finding a satellite internet company that serves your area, HughesNet’s wide service range is your best bet. HughesNet offers satellite internet service in Alaska and Hawaii unlike other providers on our list.

Anyone who works a remote night shift or games into the morning’s wee hours might consider HughesNet for its free 50 GB of extra high-speed data during off-peak hours.

Pros

  • Video Optimizer automatically adjusts data rates when you stream videos to ensure high quality.
  • You get 50 GB of extra data for free between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m.
  • Very affordable for the first year

Cons

  • Requires a 24-month contract
  • Additional cost for more than two devices
  • Expensive termination fees of up to $240

Viasat: Best for bundling services

Best satellite internet providers of 2024 | CNN Underscored (4)

Star rating: 4 out of 5

Price: $49.99 - $199.99

Speed: Up to 150 Mbps

Data cap: No

Why we picked Viasat

If you live in one of the 12 states where Viasat services are available, you can benefit from its no-contract policy, unlimited high-speed internet and speeds up to 150 Mbps. With Viasat, you can customize your plan through various add-ons, such as Viasat Voice (home phone service), Viasat Shield (online security service), EasyCare (extra support), Office Hours (use popular business programs without using your high-speed data) and DISH TV.

However, Viasat isn’t entirely transparent with its pricing. Though it advertises low $49.99 plans, the fine print reveals that Viasat gives you a discount on your internet plan for the first three months. After that, your monthly rate will increase — anywhere from $20 to $100 — for the remainder of your contract.

Who should use Viasat

Viasat can be a solid choice if you’re looking for services to bundle with your satellite internet, like phone and television. This provider also has slightly faster internet speeds than others, so it may be a good choice for remote workers or larger households.

Pros

  • Internet speeds up to 150 Mbps
  • No data overage fees
  • Available in all 50 states

Cons

  • High-speed data cap limits how much high-speed data you can use
  • Price increase after three months
  • No self-installation option

Our picks at a glance

Our rating (out of 5)

Price

Speed

Company reputation

EarthLink

4.4

$49.95 - $89.95

Up to 25 Mbps

Fair

HughesNet

4.3

$49.99 - $124.99

Up to 100 Mbps

Excellent

Viasat

4.0

$49.99 - $199.99

Up to 150 Mbps

Good

What didn’t make the cut

While it offers unlimited data, no contracts and the fastest speeds for satellite internet (up to 220 Mbps), Starlink didn’t make our list of best satellite internet providers. That’s because, with equipment fees of $599 to $2,500 and monthly prices starting at $120, it’s significantly more expensive than the providers on our list. With its Roam plan, you can work remotely anywhere — nationally or internationally — for $150 to $250 per month. Starlink is great for RVers, boaters, van-lifers and travelers. But if you’re in the market for affordable home internet, there are better options.

What is satellite internet?

Satellite internet is a wireless online connection powered by satellites orbiting the Earth. Here’s what to know about it:

  • Satellite connection: Your internet service provider (ISP) uses a satellite connection to transmit signals between your user dish, satellites orbiting in space and ground stations.
  • Long-distance transmission: Signals cover vast distances between satellite and ground stations, causing higher latency than terrestrial connections.
  • Rural connectivity: Satellite internet is primarily used in rural or remote areas lacking traditional internet infrastructure.
  • Weather dependency: Weather conditions like heavy rain or snow can affect your connection quality, which interfere with the satellite signal.
  • Data caps and limitations: Many plans impose data caps or bandwidth limits, restricting the amount of data you can consume within a specific period.

How to choose a satellite internet provider

As you shop around for a satellite internet company, keep the following in mind:

Availability

While many satellite internet companies have expanded their reach over the past few years, finding coverage may be more difficult if you live in an RV or a rural area with limited infrastructure. The good news is providers like HughesNet offer satellite internet everywhere in the United States.

Cost and promotions

Determine how much you want to spend on satellite internet each month. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to pay more for satellite internet than other types of internet, such as fiber or cable.

It’s a good idea to look for promotions that make this expense a bit more affordable. EarthLink is the most budget-friendly provider on our list, but even ISPs like Viasat and HughesNet can be affordable for the first year.

Data allotment

Some satellite internet companies — like EarthLink — cap the amount of data you can use, which may be between 40 and 500 GB. If you exceed the data cap, you may incur an overage fee or be forced to settle for slower speeds until your next billing cycle. If you don’t want to worry about the amount of data you use, choose a provider with unlimited data, such as HughesNet or Viasat.

Speed

Speed and the number of devices you use in your home go hand-in-hand. For example, if you only use one device, you may be content with a slower speed than a household with ten devices running simultaneously. With satellite internet, you can expect speeds ranging from 25 to 150 Mbps, but ISPs such as Starlink offer even faster speeds of 220 Mbps. Satellite internet may be faster than DSL, but it does have a higher latency, which can mean more delays in your connection.

Pros and cons of satellite internet

As with any type of internet, satellite internet has unique advantages and disadvantages. Users will need to weigh whether the widespread availability of satellite internet and fast speeds in remote areas are worth the expense and susceptibility to bad weather, among other factors.

Pros

  • Offered in rural areas: Since satellite internet relies on signals that beam from anywhere on Earth, it may be a good option for you, even in rural areas.
  • Fast speeds are available: While satellite internet might not be as fast as fiber internet, you can still enjoy fast speeds of up to 220 Mbps, depending on your chosen plan and provider.
  • Can enjoy unlimited data: Some providers offer unlimited standard data so you can use the internet as much as you want without paying extra fees.

Cons

  • Expensive: Satellite internet plans are usually pricier than cable, fiber or DSL internet plans.
  • Prone to bad weather: Poor weather conditions can cause spotty connections and outages with satellite internet as they weaken satellite signals.
  • Might not support all online activities: Satellite internet may be ineffective for activities like video calls and video games due to lower speeds and higher latency, which means delays in the time it takes to transfer across the network.

How to optimize your satellite internet connection

While satellite internet doesn’t offer a perfect connection, there are things you can do to improve it.

  1. Make sure your dish is as close to your house as possible.
  2. Check it regularly to ensure it’s free of damage from weather and other environmental conditions.
  3. Place your modem in a well-ventilated area and your router in a central location in your home.
  4. It’s also worthwhile to install ad blockers and data compressors on your browser to ensure a smoother, quicker connection.
  5. If possible, you should also avoid using your internet during peak times when slower speeds are inevitable.

Satellite internet alternatives

If you decide that satellite internet isn’t a good option for your unique situation, consider these alternatives:

  • DSL: DSL may come with your telephone line and offer a constant connection, but it isn’t available in remote areas where phone lines don’t reach you.
  • Mobile hotspots: Mobile hotspots are a good option for those without access to a wired internet connection. This type of internet depends on cellular phone networks and can offer fast speeds as long as you live near a cell tower.
  • Fixed wireless: Fixed wireless internet retrieves a signal from a local communication tower and may provide a reliable connection if there’s nothing in the way of your home and the tower.
  • Fiber: Fiber, which may only be an option if you’re in a more urban area, uses fiber-optic cables to deliver lightning-fast speeds. However, its availability is extremely limited.

The future of satellite internet

According to a report by Grand View Research, the global satellite internet market is projected to hit 19.71 billion by 2030. It’s an up-and-coming option for individuals and businesses in rural areas where other options, like DSL and cable, are unavailable.

A rise in government subsidies and incentives will likely increase the adoption of satellite internet services. It’s important to note that while satellite internet is growing, supply might increase demand, at least for the next few years.

— Additional reporting by Alora Bopray

Methodology

To determine the rankings for internet providers, the CNN Underscored Home editorial team analyzed 22 companies, with each company’s star rating determined by a variety of metrics and subcategories, including:

Companies that offered better services for lower prices scored best. In addition to monthly plan prices, we also considered hidden terms and fees like required contract duration, professional installation fees, bundle plan options and unlimited data plan options. ISPs that offered the most flexibility for customers scored higher than those with stricter terms.

Each ISP was rated on its plan offerings. Companies that offered higher minimum and maximum upload and download speeds with no data caps, TV and streaming add-on services, bundle services and additional features scored highest.

Each ISP was scored based on its customer support offerings. ISPs that had positively reviewed apps, live chats and phone agents, blogs, outage maps and other resources for customers scored best.

The type of internet connection was also weighed in our scoring. ISPs that offered more connection types scored best, with fiber and cable options being weighted the highest. We also considered 5G, fixed wireless and satellite options.

We collated customer reviews from the Better Business Bureau, Trustpilot, Consumer Affairs and Google maps to evaluate each ISPs reputation among customers. Companies that had higher customer reviews scored best.

Availability was measured on a statewide basis. ISPs that covered the most states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico scored the highest.

ISPs who made their data privacy policies accessible and gave customers the most options scored higher than those who made these policies hard to find or difficult to opt out of.

Our expert editorial staff awarded additional points to ISPs who had exceptional customer service and reviews, the highest variety of service options and no data caps.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

If online gaming is your priority, satellite internet is not the best option because of its high latency. This can create frustrating lags for gamers. Fiber internet, if available in your area, is the best option for gaming.

Weather conditions, like rain and snow, can hinder satellite internet connection. Satellite internet has a higher degree of sensitivity to weather conditions than other types of internet because it routes signals through satellites orbiting the Earth (which weather can block).

Satellite internet speeds usually range from 25 Mbps to 220 Mbps.

Depending on the provider, you may be able to install satellite internet yourself. Installation typically involves setting up a satellite dish, connecting a modem to the dish, activating the service with the provider and configuring your network settings.

You may have to pay an overage fee once you hit a satellite internet data cap. You might also have to settle for slower speeds. What happens when you reach your data cap will depend on your unique ISP and plan.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed price at the time of publication.

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