Frustration Extraordinare – HughesNet and WildBlue

This is the average process I go through lately to edit a page for a client.

  1. Type in the URL.
  2. Wait for 30 to 45 seconds for the page to load on average. Often this may take as long as 2 full minutes.
  3. About 3 out of 5 times, the page will fail to load completely. About half of the page load failures are incomplete loads, and about half are “Failure to Connect” notices.
  4. Make changes when the page finally loads, click Save. Go through the frustrating page load process again, hoping the changes are not lost.

This is a daily aggravation. We have two satellite dishes on the site of our house. One from Wild Blue that costs us $69 per month. One from HughesNet that costs us $79 per month. Each is so unreliable that we have to have a backup – that is more than $150 per month for internet once taxes are figured in.

WildBlue was adequate when we first got it – but we outgrew it fairly rapidly. And they have no options for growth beyond a certain point. When you hit the ceiling, they simply shut you down until your usage comes back in range – and that can take 3 weeks or more.

We got HughesNet in an emergency, and it was good at first. Their limits work differently than WB, so we’re never shut down for long if we exceed bandwidth. But lately, we’re having to be really careful what we do, because we’ve outgrown them too. We can get faster speeds, but we cannot get more bandwidth. When we first signed up with them, they had a higher bandwidth option. But they’ve since decreased the available options, and we have no place left to grow.

And the worst is that both companies have degraded seriously in performance. WildBlue is now behaving like they’ve throttled us, when we have NOT exceeded bandwidth. The performance is hideous – pages don’t load at all, and email takes forever to download. It is completely unacceptable, we are not getting anywhere near what we pay for, we aren’t even getting USABLE internet most of the time now.

HughesNet is also apalling lately. If you call them, they will run you through diagnostics, tell you you have to be reporting the wrong numbers (which are so slow their own techs cannot even believe they are real), and then wander off – they do follow up a few days later in hopes that the problem has miraculously solved itself. It never does. Our friends who also use HN have called about the slow speeds, and have been told they exceeded their bandwidth, when they have not even USED the internet in the last 48 hours! (HN has a 24 hour revolving limit.)

I ran some diagnosics recently, and they returned latency speeds that were 5 times longer than dialup speeds. This isn’t the speed of the upload or download data, rather this is the delay between the request from my computer, and the response from the other end. Often there simply is no response at all, so the browser returns a failure to connect error.

It is clear that both have vastly overloaded their satellites, and no longer care about usability for their clients. We are losing money on both – if we had an alternative, we’d be gone in a shot. I believe they make their money from people who accept it because they have no choice. The dumb thing is, many people would pay more for decent service – we would if we had the option, because our business is entirely dependent on good internet access. It is very frustrating to have no choices at all. It hurts our business, and there is nothing we can do about it.

It looks like an alternative is coming. We have two companies which will be bringing in high speed internet options soon. We’ll test them, and assuming performance is even a little better, HN and WB will be dropped. Sadly, a year ago, we’d have known we’d drop WB first, and keep HN as a backup. At this point, there is nothing to choose between the two, they are both so bad that neither is even good enough for a backup!

I don’t expect this post to change anything. The net is littered with negative comments on both of these companies. They do not listen when you contact customer support, so I doubt they are concerned with a negative reputation online either. They should be – internet options are growing for small towns across the US, and if they do not get their act together, they will simply fade out of existence.

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