Everyone wants fast, reliable internet access to post social media updates, take online classes, even play stump the virtual assistant. But when you live on a farm with thousands of acres, on the fringe of suburbia, or somewhere in between, your options can be limited.
Nearly a quarter (24%) of rural Americans say not having access to high-speed internet is a major problem in their local community, reported the Pew Research Center in a 2018 study.
That’s where a satellite internet connection comes into play. This is the most widely available internet connection in the U.S., as reported by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). To learn how it works, what it costs, and the speeds you can expect, read our guide.
This review of the best satellite internet providers contains the following sections:
Satellite internet uses satellites in space to transmit data over the internet. It does not use wires or cables that run to your home from outside networks like other types of internet connections.
This is how it works: You click on a website while surfing the internet. Your request travels through a modem to a satellite dish on your property. The dish beams your request up to a geostationary communication satellite. The satellite sends your request to a gateway station on the ground, which relays your request to the website. The reverse happens to get a response, or to receive data.
Because the request and response travel about 44,500 miles there and back, the latency or delay you experience can be notable at times, especially if you’ve maxed out your data limit or if many people are on the network at the same time.
Still, satellite internet access can be a much faster solution than dial-up, 4G/LTE mobile internet, and some DSL internet plans. It also may stay operational when disasters like fires and hurricanes interrupt land-based internet providers.
Though there are currently only a few satellite internet providers to choose from, more satellite internet options are coming. SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb, and Telestat have announced they are developing satellite broadband services. Instead of using geostationary satellites, these services will rely on a constellation of low-earth-orbit satellites.