For years I have had a dream of having actual competition for my home broadband services. This is because Comcast has had a monopoly on broadband services in my Boston neighborhood for as long as I’ve lived here. Even on days when Comcast isn’t actively annoying me — and I’ll admit that my experience with the company has gotten better over the past couple of years — I still want to have a competitive choice.
But now it looks like I may finally have a savior, although it has a lot of questions it needs to answer before it’s ready for prime time.
Starry is the name of a new startup that’s based in Boston that is aiming to offer fixed wireless broadband service that will deliver real competition to incumbent cable ISPs. The company plans to start beta testing in Boston this summer, although it’s unclear how far away we are from seeing an actual service launch. The company was founded by Aereo cofounder Chaitanya “Chet” Kanojia, who has experience disrupting existing markets with innovative ideas.
This sounds amazing, but there are good reasons to be skeptical. First, Starry isn’t buying up dedicated spectrum for its service but is instead relying on free-to-use millimeter waves, which is something no wireless ISP has ever tried before since these waves are high frequency and thus deliver inferior range and penetration compared to lower frequency spectrum.
This means that Starry will need to have a lot of different nodes set up around the city that will beam data wirelessly to an antenna that will sit in your window. The antenna will then convert the data to traditional Wi-Fi signals that will be beamed to PCs, tablets and smartphones.
And speaking of the antenna, it looks like this:
Not exactly the prettiest thing around but when you’re as desperate as I am for real home broadband competition, anything will do.
At any rate, I am definitely going to keep my eye on this service to see how well it performs. Here’s hoping that it lives up to its promises because we Bostonians have been in dire need of ISP alternatives for a long time.