Chet Kanojia Paints Vision of a New Kind of ISP at Starry Internet

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of signing up new customers on its own. The startup announced today that it plans to license its technologies to other companies that might use it to build and deploy their own broadband networks. Together with California-based chipmaker Marvell, Starry said it would release the reference design for its transceivers (which incorporate Marvell’s Wi-Fi chipsets) to “fixed wireless providers of all sizes…making ubiquitous broadband access closer to reality.”

In effect, the company is trying to position itself at the center of a new ecosystem in which a range of other providers offer point-to-multipoint wireless Internet access, with Starry’s technology under the hood. “This will allow you to basically have a completely different form of ISP,” Kanojia says.

It’s already a time of tumult and transition in telecom markets, as faster 5G wireless technology looms on the horizon and Washington sends mixed signals on telecom regulation. (The Trump administration is simultaneously dismantling net-neutrality provisions and aiming to block the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger.)

But perhaps that makes it a natural time for a visionary entrepreneur like Kanojia to speak out about his vision. After the Federal Communications Commission voted in December to remove Obama-era rules that forced Internet providers to treat all data equally, regardless of where it came from or where it was going, Kanojia published a statement on Starry’s blog saying that the company supports a free and open Internet and treats all traffic equally.

But Kanojia says he thinks the fuss over the prospect of data throttling or premium Internet “fast lanes” misses a more fundamental point: most ISPs already impose data caps.

“Even an ISP who’s opposing net neutrality won’t throttle your speeds,” Kanojia says. “It’s not in their interest. What they will let you do is run up to a cap and then raise your rate, which is in their interest. This whole throttling racket—red herring. The real challenge is caps.”

Starry’s boldest pledge, perhaps, is that it will never impose data caps—a promise Kanojia says the company can keep because of its huge technology investment. As unrestricted competition makes the Internet-access marketplace even more bewildering, he’s betting that the simplicity of Starry’s message will shine brighter for many customers.

The end of net neutrality “absolutely creates a better environment for us,” Kanojia told me. “My view is it’s fundamentally important to society that consumers have unrestricted access at a reasonable price. It’s just sort of a gut feel we have, that low price, clean, transparent care, and quality equipment and quality service will win.”

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