A Metafilter discussion introduced me to a type of Internet access I didn’t know about before; Exede satellite Internet, part of ViaSat (and WildBlue). It seems better than the Hughesnet satellite Internet which is so slow, metered, and high latency as to be nearly useless. Although I took a brief look at Hughes and they seem to have improved their offering somewhat, not sure if Exede is significantly better.
If you’re in the right regions Exede offers Liberty Internet, 12/3 Mbps, or even 25/3, for $70-$150 a month. The problem is after you go through 12-30GB that month they drop you down to a lower service which is only 1-5Mbps, or maybe worse. If you’re in the wrong area all you get is Classic service, 5/1 Mbps, for $50-$130/month. That comes with a 10-25GB monthly cap and I can’t tell if it’s a hard cap or another slowdown.
It’s still high latency though. Their FAQ is full of mealy-mouth bullshit about “web accelerators” and how latency is better, but the what to expect page confesses 700ms latency and that gaming won’t work. That’s the incontrovertible problem with geosync satellite systems; it’s 240ms just getting to the satellite and back, not to mention all the other work that has to be done.
The other part of Exede that got my attention is it’s bidirectional; you’re sending signals back to the satellite via the antenna. Old Hughes installs relied on a phone line for uploads. Hughes now advertises up to 1Mbps upload speeds though, so maybe they have a satellite option now.
I was baffled why the 12/25 Mbps service was available in San Francisco, but only 5 Mbps in Grass Valley. It’s satellite, why does it matter where I am? Well it turns out they’ve broken up the US into cells with different “beams”. I found a good map and technical detail. It looks like most of the western US isn’t served by ViaSat-1 at all, but instead by Anik-F2.