Bad news this week for major cable and broadband providers in the U.S.: both the Federal Communications Commission and a startup called Starry are intensifying the competition, albeit in two different ways.
The F.C.C. announced on Wednesday that it is proposing a move to let consumers change out their costly set-top boxes provided by cable companies such as Dish, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, and others, for alternative devices that are less expensive. These devices would likely come from companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and other tech giants that have aimed to disrupt the TV market.
Cable set-top box rental fees have jumped 185% since 1994, according to Reuters, while the costs of TVs, computers, and mobile devices have dropped 90%. The F.C.C. says that consumers should be able to access TV service for which they pay through devices other than the expensive boxes provided by cable companies.
While consumers in the U.S. certainly have a wide range of TV services at their disposal outside the traditional cable offerings, these services either come by way of internet access with a smart TV, through dongles like Chromecast, or from companies such as Apple that provide their own box and TV service that operates through the internet. The F.C.C.’s proposal challenges the market to give consumers access to the TV services they pay for through cable companies, but via devices like tablets.
As if that challenge isn’t enough for one week, a company dubbed Starry from Chet Kanojia — the founder of the notorious, now-defunct Aereo — has conceived of bringing fast, wireless internet to households through its technology. Starry will offer access at much cheaper rates — possibly with no data caps — than current broadband providers.
The aforementioned cable companies also provide internet access, so this is a double whammy. TechCrunch describes Starry’s “millimeter wave band active phased array technology” as wireless broadband internet provided to a household in a densely populated area through a node dropped onto a rooftop by Starry which then transmits millimeter waves that can bounce off buildings on the 30GHz+ spectrum to deliver a connection to a user’s Starry Point.
Starry’s hardware is what will cost a pretty penny (the Starry Station, the company’s router, costs $349, although it is not required to run the service). But still, this sort of disruptive internet is what broadband companies have to look forward to taking on competition-wise in urban areas. Cable and internet companies have their work cut out for them.