A Starry future for broadband internet

Starry Beam

Starry Beam

Like most Americans, I have a love/hate relationship with my Internet service provider -- mostly hate. I dislike the fact that I have no real choice for broadband service except one company, and that they charge me a ridiculous amount for service. Today a new home broadband service called Starry was unveiled at an event in New York, and it might be the first opportunity for many of us disenchanted broadband customers to get away from the cable or phone company.

Starry is the brainchild of Chet Kanojia and a team of veterans from Aereo, a failed startup that wanted to disrupt cable companies by provide streaming TV service. What Starry will do is install a number of distribution points called "Starry Beams" around major cities, then sell a $349.99 "Starry Station" router to consumers. There's an antenna that you'll install outside a window (called Starry Point) that will connect to your Starry Station to give all your devices fast and reliable internet service -- like gigabit per second fast. There's no price set for Starry Point yet, just the word that you'll be able to install it yourself.

Starry Point antenna

Starry Point antenna

There are some potential downsides; since the service requires line-of-sight links, trees, snow and rain could all cause problems as they do for satellite TV services. It's also unknown how much the service will cost per month.

The company will start with a limited beta in Boston, Massachusetts this summer, then expand the beta to 15 other locations including Seattle, Denver, LA, San Francisco, Detroit and Washington, D.C. 

Starry Station router

Starry Station router

To begin with, Starry is selling the Starry Station routers, beginning to take orders today for March delivery. The router itself is a work of art, providing 802.11ac Wi-Fi with beamforming technology similar to that found in the latest Apple AirPort Extreme routers. The device has a touchscreen that displays the health of the network in real time, and the company says that Starry Station is ready for 802.15 -- millimeter-wave high speed personal area networks.

Starry Station's display shows how many devices are attached, with devices showing up in blue or red depending on the quality of the Internet connection. It also provides network-level parental controls that block network connections to devices when you want the kids to be studying instead of playing games or watching videos. All settings can be changed from an iOS app. 

The company is also working on "Starry Wing", which is a network extender that just plugs into a wall socket and then pairs with the Starry Station to improve network quality in those problem areas of your home.