The End of HughesNet as we know it, and I feel fine.


I know this is a bit off topic, but my Internet service provider sunk to a new low today, and I can’t just let this one slide.

My Main Complaints (before today)

Look, I understand fully that it costs a bloody fortune to shoot a satellite up into space and I am sharing it with every HughesNet subscriber in the country and that means limits on usage. Further, I understand completely that the horribly latency (600-1100 ms ping times are typical)  is just a limitation on the physics of non-terrestrial broadband access.

I’m not alone in these complaints, there is a pending class-action lawsuit, a legion of unhappy customers, and just Google the phrase “HughesNet FAP” to see the magnitude of anger towards this company. Much of it is centered around the FAP (Fair Access Policy) that makes using the service like having a Ferrari that can drive 220MPH, but if you go more than a 1/2 mile it automatically locks you into first gear. That is, you get pretty good speed, but if you download more than your threshold for the day (200MB for the standard plan, 425MB for the best plan under $100/month) then you are put in penalty mode for 24 hours during which the speed is reduced to about 14Kbps, or slightly less than 1/3 of the speed of a dial-up connection.

My advice to HughesNet

  • Stop lying
    • It is infuriating to see tv ads pitching super fast Internet without a hint that you get spanked if you use that speed for more than 30 consecutive minutes.
    • It is practically fraud that you claim on your Website FAQ that only a small percentage of users ever get FAP’d and normal Internet use won’t trigger it.
  • Help your customers avoid accidentally tripping the FAP
    • There are third-party tools you don’t even mention on your site that can do this, although they are admittedly clunky and inaccurate.
    • Provide some first party tools to track how close a customer is to FAP and alert them when they are getting too close.
    • Don’t be so darn secretive about the formula for how FAP is calculated, the material on your Web-site is incomplete and downright misleading.
    • Only enforce the FAP when the bandwidth of the system is near capacity, have a way for customers to be alerted when usage requires FAP restrictions to be enforced.
  • Reduce the severity of the consequences for FAP
    • Dropping 95% of a customer’s bandwidth to the point where they are paying for a service too slow to even be functional is tantamount to fraud.
    • How about a tiered FAP system where it gradually gets slower as you exceed your bandwidth.
    • The maximum FAP induced throttle should be at a functional level, say 56Kbps, and only for users that are flaunting the bandwidth limitations habitually.

The HughesNet Business Model

Ever notice how shady industries with legendarily bad customer service cling to business models centered on customer lock-in mechanisms like long term contracts, proprietary hardware, or monopolies?  Some good examples of this are example health clubs, cell phone providers, cable, and satellite companies.

HughesNet uses this model to turn their customers into hostages who will continue to renew their subscription despite high prices, unreliable service, inferior technology, and horrible customer service. The only plausible explanation for why Internet Satellite isn’t in a museum next to the Apple Newton exhibit is that they have the rural community by the short-hairs due to their near monopoly on broadband service outside of urban centers. It is clear that they have given up the pretense that anyone would voluntarily pay for this service unless they have no other option beyond dial-up. Just look at the title of their corporate Web-site where they now brand themselves as  “Rural High-Speed Internet Service.”

hughesnet-rural

Live in the sticks? Your stuck with us unless you want dial-up! So F-You!

For customers who have stuck around and taken the abuse long enough to be free of the indentured servitude, they devise clever tricks to lock them intonew contracts instead of encouraging repeat business by providing value or delighting customers. Which brings us to…

The Final Insult

This morning, when browsing the Internet, I started getting the browser pop-up window shown below. Mind you, this is not a pop-up from any web-page that I am visiting. HughesNetis redirecting my browser HTTP requests to their ad site and forcing me to respond to it before I continue surfing. Worse yet, even when I play along and dismiss the prompt with the “Don’t show me this offer again” it still comes up. It is a bit hard to read in the screen-shot, but it also claims it takes 90 minutes before clicking the dismiss will be registered and prevent the ad from continuing to appear. However, it still came up after the 90 minutes had elapsed.

Am I being spammed by my own ISP?!?!?

Am I being spammed by my own ISP?!?!?

What makes their insistence on jamming this offer into my face more infuriating is the fact that I actually attempted last week to purchase this very upgrade only to have their internal bureaucracy frustrate me out of completing the transaction. I called the sales line who had no ability to upgrade my service and gave me the support number, who didn’t know what I was talking about and transferred me to billing. Billing could upgrade my service plan, but not  take an order for the new hardware required to use the new plan, they had to send me back to sales to do that. They had no mechanism set up to allow me to upgrade the service without talking to multiple people who had no authority to talk to each other directly, that is, except for new customers. ARGHHH!

Before you start to sympathize with them based on the premise that a) it is a free modem upgrade; and b) my current modem is “discontinued” you should know that I talked to their tech support just two days ago and confirmed that my existing modem will continue to work for the foreseeable future; and the fine print in the above ad notes that the “free” upgrade requires adding a one year additional commitment with a $300 fee if you terminate early.

So Why the Big Push Now?

I have had a “discontinued” modem for over a year now, so why are they pushing so hard hard recently to get me to upgrade?

The harmless reason, I think, is that the new modems use bandwidth a little more efficiently, so they may be trying to upgrade their capacity by pushing new equipment to their customers. I have no issue with this, it makes good business sense and also benefits me as a customer.

The more important reason, I suspect, has to do with Obama’s Broadband plan that was passed as part of the recent stimulus bill. It includes significant subsidees for companies to extend the reach of broadband into “under-served areas” a.k.a. HughesNet’s monopolized market. This is bad news for HughesNet who is clinging to the rural market like Dom Deloise to a ham sandwich. HughesNet’s response seems to be to use every trick in their arsenal to lock in customers, like myself, who are outside of their contractual commitments before the new competition starts pitching them alternatives that HughesNet can’t compete against.

Hughes has a very legitimate reason to be scared. I’ve noticed a recent flurry of activity from start-up WDSL (Wireless DSL)  providers like these guys, and these guys, and these guys. And these are just the one in the rural areas near Bastrop County in Texas. It’s obvious that most of these providers are running these businesses out of garages and/or pole-barns, but it’s a good start to put an end to Hughesnet. Godspeed!

Important Update: I’m scratching the last reference in this post (WDSL.ORG). This company run by Ted Green has apparently dried up and run off with deposit checks and computing equipment of several of their customers. Through some sleuthing I have discovered that they are defendants in at least 4 pending legal actions. Do not do business with either of these people or their company “Wireless Worlds.” It is possible they simply went out of business, but evidence is mounting that they are running a scam by promising Internet service then absconding with deposit money. I filed a BBB complaint (apparently I wasn’t the only one), but they refused to respond or return the calls of the BBB agent.

HughesNet Update: Breaking news from HughesNet that addresses some of these complaints!

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21 Responses

  1. I agree 100% with this. I just got FAP’d for having the audacity to use Fraudnet to download important work files. If any unlucky souls get suckered into to thinking this rip-off service is adequate for working from home, please do yourself a favor and look elsewhere or pl plan to move so that Hughesnet doesn’t end up holding you hostage to the point you become unemployed. This service truly makes cable and cell phone companies look angelic – for example, at least they tell you how many minutes you’ve used.

    • I’ve heard that Wildblue doesn’t have terms any better than HughesNet. Your best option (from my research) is either WDSL or 4g through Verizon if it is offered in your area.

  2. I’ve had Hughes Net for a while now and understand the frustration. They don’t necessarily broadcast FAP and other shortcommings, but no company does, so you can’t exactly blame them. I very much agree with the idea that they should review the FAP policy and take suggestions like yours, however, policy change comes at a cost, and it’s always the customer that’s stuck with the bill.

    One last comment. After reading your rant about Hughes Net, I noticed your Google Ads, all of which are advertising Hughes Net deals. Now that’s irony.

    • My chief complaint is that their advertising is misleading and that their pricing is not reasonable based on the limitations of the technology compared to other broadband providers.

      As for the ads, WordPress inserts those automatically based on the content, which is likely why the Hughes ad showed up next to my post criticizing them. Perhaps I’ll have to reconsider the upgrade fee to the blogging software to have them not post ads.

  3. we have had HughesNet for almost a month now and i gotta say it sucks. the only reason we got it was because our normal ISP (a local wireless company) had to abruptly remove our tower because the guy who’s silo it was on top of, wanted it gone (kind of a rinky-dink operation i know). but anyway, i’m a graphic design major attempting to graduate this spring and it is so annoying that i basically have to wait until 2AM to get any work done because i can’t move my large files until then, and this sucks because i have 8AM classes.

    the 200MB limit in this day and age is ridiculous really. my mom got us throttled the other day because she watched a couple videos that came to her in her email from my aunt. so then me and my brother couldn’t even do homework. i hate it already but there is nothing i can do because they are the only option at this point. WildBlue said they aren’t installing where i live right now and we didn’t have time to wait.

    my old ISP has been bought out recently so i’m hoping they will put a new tower out here since their service was half the price, the same speed, and had no limits. i’m going to move out after i graduate so i won’t have to deal with it much longer but i do hate to see the rest of my family stuck with this poor excuse for a ISP.

  4. […] to share this update on some of the complaints I leveled against HughesNet back in my May article “The end of HughesNet as we know it, and I feel fine)”, mostly regarding their FAP policy for controlling bandwidth usage and the poor implementation […]

  5. Hughesnet LIES. I have the ‘Elite’ package because both my wife and I require the best we can get for work and between the two of us, on occasion we might have to download or upload a large file. I figured the average would not exceed 300M but bought ‘extra’ for padding. So we’ve had this POS ever since it was available, way back in Direcway days with the two cabled boxes etc. Necessity of our remote location. Everything was ‘ok’, not great, but workable until recently. From 4pm-11pm our connection is much slower than dialup. For example, 15 minutes to load email homepage. So I call and Indianet says oh too bad so sad but we’ve cut back speeds during those hours due to high demand. I point out it is slower than dialup and the ‘technician’ actually chuckled. It gets better. This week I click OK to download my Windows updates and I get FAPed. I know the size of the file was about 100M so I call about that, and they say it wasn’t the file size but it was continuously downloading for 2+ hours. Well it wouldn’t have been freakin downloading for 2+ hrs if it wasn’t at 11mps… Oh so sorry too bad so sad would you like some nice curry. ARRRRGGGGHHHH. They are such liars and I am so fed up and so disgusted being trapped into a contract with these scumbags, but nowhere else to turn! OH and let me add the 24 hr thing is also bogus. Try 2-3 days even with no internet usage because FAP doesn’t mean slow down, it means cut off. Nothing loads.

  6. i hate hughesnet.i have had this service for 4 years and it’s the poorest excuse i have ever seen for broadband.you can forget about about trying to run a network on this sorry service too.i upgraded to the pro package about a month of having the home package,was suppose the be the 350mb package and extended to the 375 mb,well that’s at least what my plan said.well i got fap’d the other day and on the site they give you to buy tokens said”i exceeded 300 mb”.so does that mean that i don’t have the 375 mb plan or what?well, i paid the 7.50 charge to get off the fap and 3 hours later somehow i got fap’d again,and hadn’t even used the internet much.what’s up with this?that will be the last time i pay 7.50 to get back on their crappy service.i wished i had a different option,but i don’t.i’m really glad i’m not in a contract anymore.hopefully someday the area i live in may be able to get real broadband.

  7. I am in complete agreement with the article. Their claims on SPEED are absolutely FALSE. The technical support offered is useless, subversive, and insulting. After purchasing all their equipment upfront I pay $70/mo and my average speeds are 50 kbps download and 120 kbps upload. When I call to complain they require me to test this every morning, noon and night for 3 days, and call them back with the data… BEFORE offering any fix. HughesNet is an abusive and elusive bunch of thieves who are cheating a hostage clientele and are completely unregulated!

    They must be sued and vanquished!!

  8. Yes, the Hughes Net tokens system through their bogus “Fair Access Policy” seems like nothing more than a huge SCAM, a total RACKET! I am totally furious and will do my part to not only complain but to insist upon a change in policy- and will participate in any and all class action suits against them.

  9. I agreed with everything that is said on this site about Hughesnet. I have been a customer for several years now. I live in rural area also. What sickens me now is within an hour or so my FAP kicks in and I haven’t downloaded anything that would go over the FAP.

    If anyone else out there knows any program I .can download to see what is using up my bandwith.
    I would appreciate your help.

    Personally I think it is Hughesnet fooling around with my FAP.

    Also what can I do in my state of Kentucky to report this and see some action,.
    I am using a Mac.

    Thanks, Diane

  10. I have HN as well, have had it for about 6 years and like everyone else, am completely miserable with it. What makes it even worse is I am a huge video gamer that have missed out of so much fun multiplayer games and so much more. Heh, I’ve recently played Call of Duty online at a friends… I suck so bad. But the funny thing is, I blame HN. I’ve never been able to properly practice on Xbox Live. Just saying.

    But my question is… two yearrs ago, I’ve watched cable trucks come onto the street I live on. Keep in mind, I live on a street with mostly businesses which is why there was no cablee/dsl. however. one block or so away, there was. Anyway, after looking around at what they were doing, I found out they installed fiber optic cables on the poles. I’ve never found out if with these fiber optics, can I get faster internet… Comcast, Fios, anything..

    I did call Comcast multiplee times, they have said so many times we were in the area. But. The tech comes out and says he cannot install cable, barely gives us the right info on why not. Basically, I think its cause fiber optics are on the poles on the street but there’s no cables from a pole, to my house. Am I thinking correctly or not? And if so.. Is there anything I can do, anyone I can call, simply… anything… that I can do, to .. do anything? to help.. to just get rid of HN once and for all and not go dialup.

  11. I live in Rural Illinois and can’t find anything like the guys you had links too in your post above. I live near Moline, Il. Please help! How do I find someone!

    • Check out http://www.millenicom.com/ If you have a decent Sprint or Verizon cell signal at your house it is a viable alternative to HughesNet. I’ve been using them for a couple of months and it isn’t perfect, but it is far superior, cheaper, and faster.

  12. Well a year after I first commented on this thread, and 8 yrs after getting this POS… I am FREE. Last Tuesday we got DSL out here in the sticks. I was worried because the highest speed they could offer was 756K. But I gotta tell you guys it is night and day. OMG, real internet. I can catch up with the modern age. YouTube, FaceBook, NetFlix… I’m like a kid in a candy store. When I called to have it turned off they said oh keep it on for another room of the house. What? Um.. no thanks. Well keep it on and we will give you 2 weeks free. Um.. no thanks. Keep it on and we will give you 4 weeks free. Um.. no thanks. Ok let me speak with my supervisor. Ok, keep it on and we will give you this amazing offer of one month free. Wait.. how is that different from 4 weeks? Ok sir give me a moment… Ok Sir if you will stay with our service we can offer you 4 weeks free and 2 months at $20 reduced fee. HA! No way.. no thanks. It is so darn liberating. I don’t have to start up my email and then go do some chores and see if it has loaded. I can watch YouTube all night and never even slow down. Amazing. Fantastic. So happy!!!

  13. How can I find out whats available in my familys area of 36776. My family in the south has been using BellSouth for ages, and I just noticed a trailer across the street from them, they just installed HughesNet as their internet service. Their neighbor let me connect, but I couldn’t down load .Net SP1 (3mb file) from microsoft website. Is there a certain time when you can download large files, or is there a cap on it once you hit that limit?

    This is all new to to me, since I’m use to Comcast highspeed without any issues. When I come to the rural area, its like going back in time. I’m not sure how the FAP works. I would appreciated if someone could give me a definition of it, and what tools are available to check it?

    Thanks.

    • The short version is that HughesNet limits how much you can download over a 24 hour rolling window. The exact limit depends on the service plan which ranges from around 200MB/Day to around 500MB/day. If you exceed that limit your account goes into FAP (penalty) mode where they make the internet so slow that it is barely functional. In FAP mode you could probably get away with browsing (very slowly) websites as long as they don’t have many images on them, and getting text-only e-mail. You can buy “restore” tokens to get out of penalty mode for about $5/each and they typically give you one free one per billing cycle.

      If you have ANY other option, avoid Hughesnet. Even if you aren’t in penalty mode you will feel like you are because they have severely oversold their available bandwidth.

    • Being FAPed means you exceeded the download amount allowed for that day during ‘peak usage hours’ which is anything not between 2am and 6am. How much you can download depends on the package that was purchased. When I had it, I had 425 mb and it was right at about a hundred bucks a month. Most people opt for less. During the day, any download is very very slow regardless. You have unlimited downloading from 2am to 6am. If you do exceed FAP, then they say you will be slowed down for 24 hours. In actuality, they basically cut off your service for 24-72 hours. They slow it down so much you cannot even browse email. Check with the phone company to see if they have any DSL out your way. If not, if there is cell phone signal at the house you might be able to get internet through your mobile company. Hughes should be a last ditch effort when you have exhausted all other options. I would even look into high speed dial up first.

      • BTW: I talked to Hughes recently and although they are grandfathering in people who had the 425mb limit accounts, they aren’t offering them that high anymore. They are trending DOWN on the limits if you can believe that.

  14. I just found out that my cousin on your farm in AL, has just purchased this product. I believe she has the basic 1.0 Mbps/200 Kbps.

    Unfortunately there is nothing else available in the area yet, that will allow multi computers to be hooked up. There is dialup, but it sucks too, with Bell South. You can only use their dialup from only one house! If you go next door, and dialup, they will just disconnect your account.

    With HughNet, I couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t download a 4mb file when trying to update her computer. I guess she hit the limit and didn’t know. Is there anyway to find out how close you are to the (FAP) limit? Is there a time of day when there is unlimited downloading?

    • http://www.systemcontrolcenter.com/stlui/user/allowance_request.html This is HN’s download meter. Save to bookmarks/favorites bar for quick access.

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