Why is my satellite internet connection so bad?
October 14, 2010 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Why is our satellite internet so bad? I can download a page or two, and then it quits. I have to click each page twice to get it to load. On the other hand, I downloaded Skype in one go, once I got to the right page. What gives?

A bunch of us went in on a satellite system together. There's one dish per about thirty people, but even when nobody else is on, it does the same thing. Sometimes it's fast, like for the first few pages. Mostly it sucks. The way it does it, though, makes me feel like it's a metering issue, or something else. Any suggestions?
posted by atchafalaya to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Satellite is the worst. Absolutely the worst.

The issue with satellite is not necessarily one of bandwidth but one of latency. That's why it was never really a viable option and why most people don't use it unless they have absolutely no other choice - the latency will drive you crazy.

I've also noticed that most satellite ISP provides institute pretty strict download quotas, after which point they can really kill the (already pretty pathetic) performance. Does your ISP have something like this in place?
posted by kbanas at 6:15 PM on October 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Probably. But I hear others are Skyping like crazy on this same service. It's not the weather, I can say that. Would the latency mean multiple-tab browsing would take a hit? Is there a way to change my browser settings to compensate for the latency?
posted by atchafalaya at 6:30 PM on October 14, 2010

You're in Afghanistan, right?

In Armenia, it is the same. It just sucks so hard.

Does one of the local mobile providers have usb sticks?
posted by k8t at 6:31 PM on October 14, 2010

If it takes a long time to display a page initially, but is blazing fast once it starts loading it, it may be a DNS issue. DNS servers are those that tell your computer to look up an IP address (e.g., when you type in a text address (e.g., www.example.com). These servers can get bogged down even when you have plenty of bandwidth, and if they aren't serving up IP addresses, your computer doesn't know where to look.

Try OpenDNS or something.
posted by astrochimp at 6:43 PM on October 14, 2010

That sounds like it might be the issue, judging by the symptoms. Do you mind if I ask how would we use OpenDNS?
posted by atchafalaya at 7:24 PM on October 14, 2010

I was going to suggest a DNS problem, too. Skype works by DNS (the direct IP address, as astrochimp points out).

My cable internet system's DNS server frequently goes on the fritz. When this happens I can't browse web pages, but I can use Skype without any problem.

Here's the test: open one tab and point it to http://metafilter.com. Then open another tab and point it to and have a race.

How To Use OpenDNS
posted by ErikaB at 7:28 PM on October 14, 2010

Metafilter might be a bad example; trying to open the IP address in my browser just blanks out. So do the OpenDNS pages when I try to drill down.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:58 PM on October 14, 2010

Sounds like your Internet connection is just broken, then. You should consider the RMS approach:

posted by jrockway at 8:07 PM on October 14, 2010

Not all websites will work if you navigate to the ip address. Lots of them share the address with other sites, and the server uses the actual requested url to work out which page to serve.

Try a Google ip- that would probably work. Run ping on the command line and navigate to the ip address it shows.
posted by BungaDunga at 8:10 PM on October 14, 2010

Also, OpenDNS is broken and awful. If you think you want OpenDNS, what you probably actually do want is Google's public DNS (, and/or Level3's (,,,,
posted by flabdablet at 8:35 PM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

You didn't say if the dish was old or new or professionally installed but it has to be aimed perfectly, even more than a TV dish. Looking towards the sky at the satellite, a television dish has a circle about the size of a basketball that it must be aimed within to get a good signal. An internet dish has a tighter circle the size of a baseball. All the dish's nuts and bolts should be tight and it should be anchored well, so it won't sway in the wind. Make sure also that no vegetation (trees, or even forests) have grown or bloomed into your signal path (if it's that old.) Make sure the wind isn't causing any trees to sway into the signal path. The dish should be grounded, too.

Can you check satellite signal by accessing the sat modem? Sometimes, even if it displays good signal, it will still have intermittent connection issues that cause pages to stall and require reloading. This can also be caused by a failing transmitter, receiver section, feedhorn, or cabling may be causing issues, too. You may even need to be reassigned to a different satellite because of signal issues or install issues.

Even solar events can cause outages on sat systems, although those are usually complete outages, in my personal experience. Most sat ISPs throttle bandwith in my experience, and use different approaches. My old service would allow ~300mb per day, depending upon service level and amount paid, except during a "free period" during the wee morning hours. Anything after that, and service was scaled back to dial-up speeds or less for a 24 hour period. In reality, the service was essentially unusable if a policy limit was hit. I have even heard tell of services that would scale your service back for an entire -month- if a policy limit was hit. I couldn't imagine having 30 people using my old service, but again, I don't know what kind of service you have or what policy limits govern your service.

These are just some of the things I can think of off the top of my head that I've had to deal with, but hopefully its nothing too complicated for you. Good luck.
posted by FireballForever at 9:04 PM on October 14, 2010

It could be that satellite is overloaded.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:19 PM on October 14, 2010

You can try a ping test to see how your connection is performing. "Ping -t www.google.com" in a CMD prompt window.

Dish alignment is everything too..especially if its two-way satellite, it has to be fairly precise...otherwise your request packets are being sent to aliens somewhere in outer space...
posted by samsara at 4:58 AM on October 15, 2010

Oh and also, if some sites are performing better than others, do traceroutes to the good and bad. "tracert www.google.com" for example. This will show you the hop at which performance is dropping off.
posted by samsara at 5:00 AM on October 15, 2010

Hey everybody: it's working a lot better now, apparently because they took out the load balancer that was conflicting with the router.

Does that make sense?

Thank you all very much for taking the time to read and answer my question!
posted by atchafalaya at 7:22 AM on October 15, 2010

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