An unbiased (relatively speaking) assessment of ViaSat's satellite internet service

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  • Updated 9 months ago
  • (Edited)
Reading through some of the vitriol I see in this forum, I’m prompted to reply - not so much specifically to every “worst service ever”, “Exede is a con” type of post - nor to every “quit your bitching”, “satellite is different”, “you’re just a whiner” type of reply, but more in general - and hopefully, for the most part, unbiased. 

First, my background - for more than two decades, my wife and I have lived, (along with our 3 kids - all of whom are grown, out of the house and parents themselves now), in a somewhat rural setting in Northern Virginia. During our 21 + years here, we’ve never had access to any semblance of “true” broadband. We started with dial-up and transitioned to satellite (DirecPC in its earliest days) as soon as we could. The earliest version of satellite could only share a connection via a PC, so even though we’re a Mac family, I set up a PC as a satellite connection server, so we could share the connection - don’t ask me how I did it, I’ve purged that painful memory from my archives. 

I’ve also been exposed to true broadband. The place I work is on a fairly fat pipe, two of my kids live where they can get decent cable, and in-town locations such as Starbucks and the library offer good speed  and low latency. The point is, I’ve gained perspective over the years - having dealt with the most frustrating of satellite services (Hughes), dial-up and very nice cable service (albeit at my place of employment).

So that’s the background I bring to the table as I share my impressions.

Let me start with what is good about ViaSat (some of you no doubt still call it Exede). 

For ourselves, it is good - and appreciated - that ViaSat has steadily increased our data allowances, while maintaining level pricing.  We started at 30Gbs - and weren’t thrilled with the fact that we would blow through our data allowance so much more rapidly than had been the case with Hughesnet. Frustrated, we temporarily down-graded to 18Gbs (part of a failed experiment to supplement with LTE), only to upgrade back up to 50Gbs for a penny more than we’d been paying for 18. We both thought that was a pretty good deal! Since then we’ve tripled our data allowance again to 150Gbs - for a nominal increase in pricing ($10? I can’t recall exactly... but it was a very small difference in pricing).  So in a matter of months, we’ve nearly tripled our data allowance from 18 to 50 - and then tripled it again from 50 to 150... and all for a truly insignificant difference in the pricing. We were - and we remain - very appreciative of ViaSat for those generous upgrades to our data allowance.

... which brings me to another good thing about ViaSat. They provide a decent online tool by which customers can check their data plan offerings whenever the spirit moves them to. It’s because of that tool that I was able to learn of each of the data plan upgrades we’ve taken advantage of in the past year.

One could argue that is not so good that we have to resort to a tool in order to check what’s available - and that’s a valid argument. It would be good if ViaSat advised their entire customer base of new plan availability, etc... I think it would be more consumer friendly were that the case. To complain about it with language such as “ViaSat are cons” is way over-the-top, however (in my not so humble opinion).

This leads to me another important point to consider with regards to satellite in general and to ViaSat in particular:

When one chooses satellite as their internet access provider, It is good to be mindful that one should also choose to be a well-informed consumer. From the earliest days, I’ve set out to “learn the ropes” with regards to satellite internet access. What tools are available, whether through ViaSat or through third parties? How do you run diagnostics yourself? What are the tricks one can use to give their connection a boost? Are there risks to be especially mindful of? How can one control data consumption? I’m not going to go into all of that in this essay, but all of that info is here in this forum. A current or prospective customer would be well-served to learn all of it.  If you want to be a satellite consumer and survivor, it’s a must.

And that can be a bad thing about ViaSat - or about any satellite provider. You really do need to be an active customer if you want to maximize your appreciation of the service and minimize your frustration. Many folk won’t like that (understandable), but it’s a fact of life. If you appreciate push-button, turn-key access, you’re not going to get that with satellite internet (unless you are lucky enough to be on a beam with zero congestion  - and even then, there are bound to be challenges). If you as a customer wanted to keep your hands-on to a minimum, come to this forum and ask good questions - and always remember to use viasatlistens@viasat.com - the CSRs who answer those Emails are darned good - and they are motivated to be helpful.

There are valid complaints I should mention - ViaSat could have far more friendly customer pricing policies. I’ve made it clear in this forum that I loathe the practice of assigning different pricing for the exact same level of service, depending on the congestion of your beam. I believe that could have been - should have been handled differently and better than it was. ViaSat could have achieved their objective without assigning winners and losers in the marketplace.

ViaSat could also handle billing far more competently than has been my experience... (and reading through the posts in this forum, than has been the experience of others, as well). Satellite service can be frustrating enough, without having to contend with the need to expend time and effort to resolve a problem which should have never happened in the first place.

However, those two complaints (especially the second one) also serve as an example of what is good about ViaSat - and that’s this forum - and the availability of viasatlistens@viasat.com. The forum provided me with a platform to complain about the inequitable pricing... not all of my fellow forum members agreed, but we were able to disagree without being disagreeable, and I think that ViaSat reps heard (and hopefully will take into consideration) the points I made here. Additionally, when I had my billing concern, the CSRs at the other end of the viasatlistens Email address were able to make needed changes and reverse charges. It took a while longer than I would have liked (bad), but it got done (good).

The Champions in this forum can sometimes be arrogant, somewhat dismissive, perhaps too willing to forgive and forget business practices of ViaSat... that’s frustrating to me - and I am sure to others - and can help contribute to a perception of a bad experience.

However - look a little bit more closely, maintain an open mind, and perhaps you will decide (as I have) that the Champions in this forum offer helpful advice, are knowledgable, informative and when there is debate, for the most part they will engage in debate respectfully - that’s really good and adds to the usefulness and enjoyment of this forum.

... and the above leads me to my conclusion. I wanted to write this, hopefully open-minded and balanced assessment, because I was tiring of reading angry comments I read here - most of which are far too over-the-top to lend any attention to (I do give credence to complaints, but some of the language / accusations leads me to tune those posts out, regardless of how credible they might be). To those folk, I would encourage them to be involved - to be activated in establishing their own customer experience - and to never hesitate to ask for help. If truly pissed off, try to come up with a way to communicate that effectively, without hyperbole. Take a moment to think about what you want to say, how to make it effective.

And for those who are quick to jump on those who are complaining, perhaps take a moment, also. Not everyone is having the same user experience which you are having. It’s not helpful to say “it works great for me... what’s wrong with you?” Some new users are coming to satellite having been in far easier circumstances, some are not able to understand how to use the tools ViaSat provides, some have no idea how to diagnose things, etc... sure, folk get excited and say some heated things. Even knowing that, I think it fair to say that we will all have a better community if the more experienced amongst us focus on providing light, as opposed to applying heat to the discussion.

TLDR; Things are not as bad as some say, nor as easily resolved and fixed as others say. Your satisfaction depends in large part on your prior experience and perspective, but satellite access can work well if you’re an activated, proactive user - and can be frustrating if not. There are good and bad things about ViaSat in particular, but more good than bad, especially when mindful of the full picture. I encourage those that complain to rein in the excessively heated language and also encourage others to not be so dismissive of the complaints. 

For myself personally, the bottom line is that ViaSat represents the best value currently available for satellite internet access. 

Thanks for reading if you made it this far.

Rique
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Rique

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  • Hopeful

Posted 9 months ago

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J&J

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Wow, that was actually pretty good.  I myself, jump down people's throat if they come here and start off by accusing Viasat of being liars, crooks, thieves, or just generally being dis-honorable.  If that's the first thing they have to say then my response will be pointed, quick, and insulting.  I've had my so-called "comments" removed but the OP still saw them before they got deleted.  The Mods can't be everywhere all the time and I take advantage of them being gone after 6pm.  People that come here and can't be civil, state the problem they are experiencing, seek help or advice to remedy that problem get trashed by me.  I have said before if Viasat is wrong, I'll be the first one to tell them, and I will have done my homework before I gripe.  If Viasat is not wrong, I will defend them to the wall.

I will also offer any help I have to contribute to them that come here seeking a better way to have a positive Internet experience with Viasat. 

I did my homework on Viasat and it's founders.  I understand what drives these people and it isn't a love for money, it's much more, and we benefit from them.  Knowing what I do about Viasat made me a junk yard dog to them that knock this company rather than asking for assistance when they have a problem.  So yes, I can be a real jerk to some people, but I don't think they have anything better coming, certainly I make them see their un-justified knocks are not welcome here.
 
(Edited)
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Stephen Rice, Champion

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I just want to know if that kid had a good birthday or not.