With the service launch of the world’s highest capacity communications satellite now underway, Viasat continues to address one of the most important social and economic problems facing rural America — the digital divide.
Simply put: If you’re a home- or business-owner, or even a local or state official looking to improve service for your area, satellite should be a key component of any plan for better service. That’s because many locations are still too remote to be feasible for cable buildout or even many wireless services.
The other option — phone company DSL — only offers speeds as low as 5 or 10 Mbps in many areas. This means underserved communities have long been unable to bridge the tech gap to take advantage of streaming video, interactive education, real-time business, healthcare collaboration and more. While Viasat’s earlier satellites — particularly ViaSat-1 — have brought speeds up to 25 Mbps in areas that lacked adequate coverage, there remained portions of the country still underserved. ViaSat-2 not only fills in those gaps but adds more coverage and capacity for the rest of the Lower 48 (plus Mexico, Central America and air and maritime routes all the way to Europe).
ViaSat-2 allows us to offer a new tier of service — true broadband speed for homes and businesses in rural communities — and in more places. Now we can more than double download speeds for our customers, with plans of 25 Mbps in most areas and speeds up to 100 Mbps in many others. This new satellite also enables us to offer broadband in large areas of the American West we’d only covered with our legacy service.
And while our new Viasat service is a boon for rural regions, there are plenty of areas closer to cities that also suffer from substandard service. Viasat Internet offers another premium internet option for homes and businesses outside the urban core that need the faster internet that regional DSL or cable services aren’t providing.
A question of availability
Many rural areas have been looking to the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF) — or other state and local programs — to confront the digital divide problem. While these efforts have helped, they still have far to go. For many large rural communities, Viasat Internet has to be part of the consideration set in places where terrestrial providers fall short.
Even when CAF grants do reach rural communities, a lot of time can go by while communities wait for federal grant funds to be used to modernize their existing infrastructure in the name of cable broadband speed. Satellite internet from Viasat, on the other hand, is already covering most of the U.S. and requires no taxpayer money to provide service. It just takes a small dish on the home or business to make the connection. This “internet anywhere” capability of satellite means a home suffering with poor internet service can be upgraded to broadband speeds and beyond in a matter of days — not months or years.
Today, subscribers of broadband services really need large or unlimited data plans. Since Viasat is now offering these kinds of plans, the previous knock on satellite for low data caps is no longer an issue.
While we have succeeded in filling coverage gaps, there is more to be done. With many people moving away from traditional TV plans to become “cord cutters,” and with 4K streaming on the way, the need for more capacity continues to grow. Viasat plans to push satellite technology on an accelerated schedule with the goal of launching the first ViaSat-3 satellite over North America in just a few years. That will add at least another 1,000 Gbps — a terabyte — of capacity while the terrestrial providers are still digging ditches to lay cable — or shunning entire regions altogether.
We don’t believe the solution to the digital divide should have to keep waiting. Viasat is here for everyone, today, making available the better service and high speeds people need to keep up in today’s digital world.