The Downside of Satellite Internet

A few weeks ago, I encountered the major downside of satellite Internet service:  bandwidth restrictions.  Apparently, it is common practice for satellite Internet providers to restrict the amount of data you can download and upload over your connection.

With WildBlue, the service for which I signed up, the restrictions occur on a rolling 30-day basis.  With HughesNet, they occur on a rolling 24-hour basis.  I’m not sure what other satellite providers are out there, but I’m sure they have similar restrictions.

My service plan restricts me to downloading 17,000 megabytes and uploading 5,000 megabytes within any 30-day period.  Unfortunately, according to the terms of service, if you reach 80% of either of those limits, they cut your connection speed back to “128 kbps”. In reality, this apparently translates to a connection speed similar to the old 9,600 baud per second dial-up modems, possibly a 14.4 kbps modem connection.  Regardless, the connection speed is so slow that 99% of the Web sites on the Internet time out before ever loading, and those that do load take up to ten minutes to do so.

That’s right, I exceeded my bandwidth restrictions.  Not by just a little, either.  I reached around 115% of my download threshold and more than doubled my upload threshold.  How, you may ask, did I do such a thing?  Well, the answer is quite simple:  I was downloading two Linux DVD images through BitTorrent (my first foray into using BT since the days when I had a cable connection).  I’m still not 100% certain how downloading less than 8.5 gigs over a torrent translated to using nearly 20 gigs of download bandwidth and nearly 10 gigs of upload bandwidth, but, apparently it did.

Therefore, I am essentially without an Internet connection at this point in time.  I’m writing my blog entries at home and bringing them to work with me.  Then, on my lunch break, I copy the text and paste it into the blog editor, then save my entry.  Allen has been kind enough to publish my blog entries when it’s time for them to go live, as I can’t really do that without an Internet connection.

What’s worse, is that it looks like I’ll be without an Internet connection until near the end of March, since my bandwidth violation pretty much occurred altogether in three or four days around the end of February.  Because the restrictions operate on a rolling 30-day basis, it could be up to 30 days from the time I exceeded the thresholds before my service is returned to normal.

I have opened two separate support tickets through WildBlue’s Web site, and both of those tickets have been ignored.  I was never notified of the impending violations when I was close to exceeding my bandwidth thresholds, nor was I notified of the violation itself once I exceeded it.  According to the contract (a 24-month contract, at that) that I signed with WildBlue, they were required to notify me in both events.  They did not.

Unfortunately, however, I can’t get in contact with anyone from WildBlue, so I can’t discuss the situation with anyone there.

In the wake of these events, I tried valiantly to get some sort of landline connection to the Internet (through cable or DSL), but, alas, none are available at my house.  I think the cable connection goes as far as my driveway, but Comcast doesn’t have any plans to extend that connection until at least the end of summer, possibly never.  When Verizon hooked up our phone last May upon us moving into the house, the technician informed us that the phone lines running to our house would never handle a DSL connection, so I won’t be getting DSL or FIOS until Verizon decides to re-do all of the phone lines leading up to my house.

My last resort is to possibly cancel my contract with WildBlue and sign a new contract with HughesNet.  Unfortunately, that could end up costing anywhere between $300 and $600, depending on how much equipment I have to purchase and depending on whether or not I’d ever be able to get in touch with anyone from WildBlue and whether or not they’d waive the cancellation fees on my contract.

I am not denying that I violated the Fair Access Policy.  Obviously I did.  However, that, in itself, is not a breach of contract on my part, as I never agreed that I would not violate the policy.  WildBlue, however, was bound by our contract to notify me when my bandwidth reached 80% of the threshold.  It was also bound by contract to notify me upon reaching 100% of the threshold.  WildBlue did neither according to the Fair Access Policy.

The simple fact of the matter is that WildBlue is in breach of contract. Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, I have not been able to actually contact anyone at WildBlue, so I have not been able to discuss the matter.

Therefore, for those of you considering acquiring satellite Internet service, I would caution you, at this point in time, against contracting with WildBlue.  Unless the service improves significantly within the next few weeks, I will not be changing that viewpoint, either.  In addition, if the service does not improve, I will very seriously consider switching over to HughesNet, regardless of the cost.  It’s truly unfortunate that HughesNet can’t seem to use the dish I already purchased from WildBlue, and would require me to purchase a completely separate dish were I to switch over.  If it was not for that fact, I would most likely switch my service today.

So, to conclude, here are the two lessons that should be learned from this blog entry:

  1. If you think you might ever need any type of technical support, avoid WildBlue for your satellite Internet service needs
  2. If you have satellite Internet service, avoid using BitTorrent like the plague

4 Responses

  • BlueMan

    I could understand them not being able to send an email right away since it seems like you used a fair amount of data at one time, but it definitely is strange that they did not send an email after the fact. Here is a little bit more about the FAP for those interested:

  • Walt

    Stay away from Hughes if you can. It’s slower than hell at the best of times and you more or less can’t download torrents at all…that is they come in at about 1KB/s…

  • Elle

    DO NOT opt for Hughes. The price is prohibitive and the service abysmal. And they, unlike WildBlue, are not required to warn you when you are nearing the threshold.

    We’re with Hughes and are actually considering moving (yes, our actual home!) because we’re so frustrated with their service. Nothing else but dial-up and satellite is available here, including wireless.

  • Nature of the beast! Satellites are not cheap to put into orbit and the Wildblue/Hughes model is to cram as many people on them as possible to make the monthly rates as low as possible. Guess what – you get what you pay for! If you need Satellite Internet for business, I would strongly advise against Hughes or Wildblue and go with more of a professional grade of bandwidth like which has many options that will not slow you down if you reach your limit, you just pay overages. If your business relies on the connection at least you can keep working. It is not cheap compared to the other consumer grade, but if your business is contignent on higher speeds, it is a necessary evil.