Occupational therapist Jennifer Lo moved to rural Jefferson County, CO a few years ago to escape the growing congestion of Denver. She was also looking for a setting that better matched her athletic, outdoor-oriented lifestyle. While she was immediately sold on the peace and beauty of her new home, Lo was dissatisfied with her first satellite internet provider.
“I hated it; I couldn’t Zoom, I couldn’t do anything,” she said.
Two years ago, she switched to Viasat, and her online experience finally matched the rest of her chosen lifestyle.
“It’s faster, it’s more consistent,” she said. “I can stream Netflix and Hulu. I couldn’t do that with my other service. Viasat is a lot better.”
CNET agrees. The popular technology website recently named Viasat the “best satellite provider” on its 2021 list of best rural internet providers. It praised Viasat for plans that come “with more data and, in some locations, more speed, than competing satellite internet companies.” CNET also noted Viasat offers more affordable Wi-Fi equipment rental costs, making it “one of the more affordable wireless internet providers.”
Viasat is among just seven rural ISPs recommended on CNET’s list, which evaluated each company’s availability, pricing, data volume and customer satisfaction.
The article also noted that the FCC and internet service providers are working to expand connections and bridge the digital divide — a long-standing issue for rural residents.
Thanks to billions of dollars of rural infrastructure investments made in the last few years, the digital divide is narrower today than ever before, the FCC reported in April 2020. But the gap is far from closed.
According to CNN, more than a quarter of rural U.S. households still lack access to high-speed internet — an absence keenly felt during the pandemic while adults and children worked and studied from home.
The need sparked by the pandemic isn’t going away. While most students will go back to in-person schooling, many companies are adopting new policies allowing employees to work from home. And a year that required new ways of accessing traditionally in-person services led many people to seek medical care through telehealth services. It also sparked a heavier reliance on online shopping. These and other moves to online services, meetings and shopping are expected to continue trending upward in the post-pandemic world.
Connectivity is key
Economists call these home-based spending patterns “nesting behaviors.” In 2020, evidence of their popularity was as close as the stripped shelves of neighborhood hobby and home-improvement stores. Business at Home Depot surged in April 2020 as quarantined Americans — with fewer options for spending on travel and entertainment — instead started sprucing up the living quarters they now occupied 24/7.
Retailers like IKEA, Target and Walmart scrambled to keep up with the sudden demand for desks and home-office equipment, a supply shortage some laughingly labeled “the new toilet paper.” Sales at Peloton, famous for its high-end stationary bikes and treadmills, jumped an astonishing 172% in 2020, and more than a million people subscribed to its streaming classes.
Some of these pandemic behaviors are expected to shift back to pre-virus levels. Children will return to school, reversing the rise of online education, and spending on digital entertainment likely will decrease as people leave home screens behind for movie theaters and concert halls. But economists say other time- and hassle-saving nesting behaviors — like telehealth and online grocery shopping – are here to stay.
That means the demand for high-speed internet will remain strong – and the difference in lifestyle between those who have it and those who don’t will become even more dramatic.
As a satellite internet provider, Viasat is uniquely positioned to fill those coverage gaps. Most of the service gaps are in rural or remote areas, places where terrestrial-based internet can’t or won’t go. It’s not economically viable for these ISPs to run cable or fiber to individual homes, which is why most of their business is in more populated areas. But because Viasat’s internet signal is beamed directly from a satellite, all that’s required is a small antenna, a modem and a view of the southern sky.
Viasat has worked to dramatically improve the speed, reliability and data capacity of its network. It’s expected to take another huge leap in performance with ViaSat-3 — a constellation of three satellites that will cover most of the globe and feature an enormous jump in the capacity needed to provide faster speeds and more data.
For more information about Viasat, and the plans that earned us the top satellite spot on CNET’s best rural ISPs list, visit us at Viasat.