Those who don’t live in the rural areas don’t fully understand rural internet or the limited options that those of us country-dwellers have. In fact, I’ve never lived so far out of town before that I didn’t have the usual internet options: cable or DSL, and never having experienced satellite internet, when we moved here in January 2013, I honestly didn’t think that the service would be much different from what I was experiencing in town (where I had both Qwest DSL & Mediacom Cable because working from home for Wells Fargo required dedicated cable internet, and I was paranoid enough that I didn’t want them to see any other surfing I did.

After researching the two providers–HughesNet and Exede ViaSat–we went with Exede. At the time they offered more bandwidth, less money, and it seemed like the better service. Within a few months we also transferred our home phone to them. For the first 18 months or so service was good. Yes, we hit our bandwidth cap (10GB) each month, usually around the first of each month. Our service reset on the 12th, and for 10 days or so we had to deal with slow speeds, and the occasional nag screen, but nothing that stopped me in my tracks.

Then, Exede was bought by DirectTV/AT&T. That’s when service went markedly down hill. The customer service techs who were nice started replying in copying and pasted segments about bandwidth. I noticed bandwidth being used even when there were no devices turned on or connected to the internet and all of a sudden the bandwidth meter wasn’t “real time”. Then, when we hit our cap, instead of being throttled, we were stopped. As in Google’s speed test wouldn’t even run. When it did, we were getting 0.23 Mbps or 0.38, but never even 1.

The only way to have even basic, check my email access to the internet? Buy more “priority data”, or what I’d come to call extortion fees. Each month it got worse and worse, where I used less of the bandwidth before it stopped the internet to unusable levels.

Roughly six months ago, I changed to a “Liberty Pass” plan, which was supposed to slow me down, but not as much and put me into “Liberty Pass”. Again the internet would stop to unsuable levels until I bought more “Priority Data”. There was no “Liberty Pass”.

Keep in mind my usage is not streaming. I gave up Netflix and do not use the video benefits of Amazon Prime since our move. The only videos I watch are for college and I tried to watch most of those in town on my lunch break using work’s better internet. I checked emails, updated WordPress websites, and did various work in google apps for my clients. I was as frugal as frugal could be with my internet.

A few weeks ago, when I’d reached my breaking point. Almost as soon as I entered “Liberty Pass” (I guessed, since they never sent me an email to notify me that I’d moved into Liberty Pass.), I couldn’t work. A 50MB file was going to take more than four hours to download. I vented on Facebook and someone suggested I check out HughesNet again.

I’m glad I did. Our service switched a week ago, and aside from the fact that we may lose our phone number because I too enthusiastically cancelled our Exede service so won’t be able to complete the porting process, have had no issues. We have more GB per month for less money, and even if I needed to upgrade my plan, I could get 50% more bandwidth for something like $20/mo — with no “priority data” to buy ever!

At this point, a FCC complaint has been filed. And this truly underscores the need for investment in rural broadband. I cannot imagine the economic possibilities that are being lost because of this truly shitty service from Exede. As far as I’m concerned, the company is a sham–never delivering on its promised speeds, bandwidth, or even it’s “Liberty Pass” programs. They’re blaming the issues on the delay in launching their second satellite, but frankly that’s not my problem or the problem of their other customers, and they keep signing up new ones while their existing ones are leaving in droves where possible.