If there’s one explanation for the dysfunctional state of home internet service in the U.S., it’s a lack of competition. With only one or two options for high-speed broadband in most places–or no options in rural areas–consumers have little ability to escape routine price hikes, data caps, overage charges, the erosion of net neutrality, and weak privacy protections.
That’s why the birth of wireless home internet has been so frustrating to observe. While major telcos like Verizon and T-Mobile make grand proclamations about disrupting home broadband with speedy 5G wireless internet service, the reality on the ground–or, rather, in the air–is harsher. Even with low buildout costs and limitless consumer demand, building out the wireless home internet of the future is a painstakingly methodical endeavor.
For proof, just look to startups like Starry and Common Networks, which for the past couple years have been building the kind of wireless home internet service that the telco giants now want to offer. Both startups are well-funded–Starry raised a $100 million Series C round in July, and Common Networks followed with a $25 million Series B round last month–yet their rollouts are slow-going. Starry hopes to be in 16 markets by year-end, nearly three years after launch, and Common Networks is shooting for five total markets by the end of 2019.
The excruciating pace could partly be attributed to wireless technology, which is still evolving and could use more spectrum to operate in, but the bigger factor is more boring: Setting up any kind of internet…