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Aereo's Founder Is Back With Starry. This Time He's Going After Broadband, Not TV.

Starry promises superfast broadband that will compete with Comcast, Verizon and the rest of the Internet gatekeepers.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Chet Kanojia’s last company tried to take on the TV Industrial Complex, and failed spectacularly.

Now he’s back, and taking on an even bigger target, for even larger stakes: The Aereo founder now says he wants to compete with America’s broadband providers, who control a precious resource and face little to no competition in most of the country.

If he can pull it off, it’s a very big deal, since most people in the U.S. have no choice at all when it comes to broadband provider, and those who do have a choice are usually facing a duopoly at best.

Kanojia’s new company is called Starry, and it promises that it can provide faster, cheaper Internet than the stuff offered by the likes of Comcast* and Verizon, via fixed wireless broadband. Kanojia and his co-founders say they can accomplish this using “millimeter waves and proprietary technology,” and I have zero ability to assess those claims or the legal/regulatory issues he’ll run into when he tries.

It’s worth noting that lots of people have talked about fixed wireless broadband, and some have even tried, and none have been successful. Clearwire, for instance, was an expensive argument against the idea. (Luckily I work with wireless wiz Ina Fried, who will most definitely be following up on this.)

That said, Kanojia’s last company used an array of micro-antennas to pluck TV signals from the airwaves, and for quite some time, lots of smart people believed that Kanojia was bluffing, and that such technology did not exist. It did — but that didn’t matter after the Supreme Court crushed his company, which ended up in bankruptcy court.

Some of Kanojia’s previous backers have shown up for this round, including FirstMark Capital and Barry Diller’s IAC. Other backers include Tiger Global, KKR, HLVP and Quantum Strategic Partners. Here’s a brief pitch video:

So what’s this going to cost, and when will you be able to use it? Kanojia, who is unveiling the new company at a press conference in New York, hasn’t said, except that he wants to provide speeds of up to one gigabit “at a fraction of a cost of traditional broadband.” He says he will start a rollout in Boston this summer, and that he’ll have to expand on a city by city basis, like he tried to do with Aereo.


He has said that a proprietary “Starry Station” router — that’s the pyramid in the picture above, which features many bells and whistles — that accompanies the service will cost $350, and will go on sale Feb 5, and start shipping in March. It’s unclear to me whether the router will work on conventional broadband as well, but I’ll update as I get more info. Update: Their PR says the router will work with any ISP.

Update: Nope, no update on crucial stuff like pricing. Most of the demo has been spent discussing the merits of the router, which sounds interesting but isn’t relevant unless the company can deliver on its bigger pitch.

* Comcast, via its NBCUniversal unit, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.

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