Sooner or later you will want to find out how your VSAT connection with XYZ company compares to ABC company, which seems to be offering the same service package for internet as your provider does...for about $100 less per month! How can you compare the two providers and packages apples for apples? Let me say that it is nearly impossible...Why? Too many satellite internet providers use very convoluted terms and vague statements to disguise what they are selling you. To put it more directly, some satellite internet companies misrepresent their products performance capabilities- plain and simple.
Here are the terms that are most often abused: contention rate or ratio, Fair Access Policy, Acceptable Use Policy, Terms of Service (TOS) and vague Articles in your Subscriber Agreement. Most businessmen and individuals alike don't check up on the companies they buy from, even if they haven't done business with them before!
Why?...because most of us can't imagine how a company could stay in business very long if they were engaging in deceptive or unethical business practices. Well, I forewarn you now.
..check up on every satellite internet company you intend to do business with - for some reason, the industry draws in a better than average number of downright crooks! It might be the gross dollars involved or the fact that most satellite internet companies require prepayment for equipment and monthly service......I'm not sure, but I am certain this industry has suffered from a lousy reputation for many years.Back to what you should watch out for:
#1: Contention Ratio
or Rate - This is the single most abused term used in both satellite and terrestrial internet comparisons. The reason it is purposfully mis-stated is that there is a lot of room for interpretataion about what the actual contention is, where it starts and how it is figured from one provider to the next. A unscrupulous or desperate internet provider can actually "make" the results come out any way they need to show their service package in a better light than the competition. It would take weeks to explore all of the ways a internet provider can "sandbag" the contention ratio he claims to be offering, but here are some questions to put them on the defensive if they are the deceptive type:
1. Instead of asking what their contention ratio is for a package, ask how many other users
you will be sharing the connection with. You will be surprised to hear the answers they can come up with. How, for example could any ISP know how many users will be behind a router? It is actually possible to know with the right software. Listen to the explanation they give and then call an expert that has some independence from the situation.
2. Ask them to allow you to speed test and ping test a connection. Both at their location and at a customer site.
Since most customers of a provider expect to be able to use the connection without having a stranger come in to test, it might not be easy to test at a customers site.....but it's worth a try, and some customers are surprisingly agreeable to such tests. If they give you the name of a customer, you can always ask them to run a test on a site like testmy.net or visualware's sites and email the results to you. A company claiming a 25:1 contention ratio and a speed test shows about 50% of the "up to" speeds, is a strong suspect for not trusting!#2: Fair Access Policies
are gaining ground rapidly as the most abusive/convoluted method for Internet Providers to "pack 'em on the transponders." At this time there is no standard set forth by the FCC, to force internet providers to use similar or comparible fair access policies...making it nearly impossible to do "side by side" comparisons. One provider, HughesNet, has made the policy so vague that even long time pros in the industry are pulling their hair out in an effort to advise clients about how to avoid FAP penalties, or slowdown's, if you will. Some type of FCC standard needs to be enforced on all internet providers - we can compare the specifications of two cars can't we?...why shouldn't internet be held to a standard that permits accurate comparison?#3 Terms of Service and Acceptable Use
wording has evolved into a art form of deception among some dishonest internet providers. What they have done is use blanket wording that makes nearly ANY type of usage beyond casual email and browsing a potential "black hat" activity. In other words, the vague wording of these two sections of your agreement with a provider can give them ammunition to throttle your usage or even cancel you. This makes checking on the reputation of a company more important than ever. Make them give you at least 3-5 customers you can call as a reference.
It is my hope that enough pressure will be put on the satellite internet industry from regulatory folks as well as customers that by this time next year it will be much easier to compare internet providers apples to apples, understand what your speeds and performance will be without having to hire someone to sift through it all and know how much bandwidth you will actually be getting for the dollars you are spending.