Hey there! I’m Chet Kanojia. Ten years ago, I started Aereo, a company that put an over-the-air TV antenna in the cloud with a DVR, giving you on-the-go access to your broadcast TV and DVR recordings. It was a novel idea at the time: mailed DVDs were still a big business for Netflix and cord-cutting was still a relatively new concept. So, for consumers looking for alternatives beyond the expensive cable bundle, Aereo was it.

Naturally, as these things go, the incumbents (in this case, broadcasters who were using free government airwaves to deliver television signals) sued. And they sued us all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a 6-3 decision sealed Aereo’s fate. While that ended Aereo’s run, what the broadcasters could not do was suppress the cord-cutting, video streaming revolution that was just around the corner.

For me, the take away from that experience was clear: the question wasn’t if the streaming /cord-cutting revolution was going to happen, but when. And, the real front on this war was going to be around internet access, the “pipe” and the near-monopoly market for broadband in this county. Internet access was going to be the next significant frontier for competition and disruption.

So, after Aereo, instead of riding off into the sunset, I started a new company to do just that. (FWIW, I did nurse a lot of tequila in the first months.)

Ask me anything today via u/starry_internet about lessons learned from Aereo and charting a path forward after a stunning (and very public) defeat. And why I feel compelled to keep taking on these big challenges.

EDIT & UPDATE: The AMA is closed. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today!

Proof Photo: https://twitter.com/StarryInternet/status/1493984052021542917

Proof: https://starry.com/blog/inside-the-internet/founding-stories-part-ii-ask-me-anything-about-10-years-after-aereo-and-how-it-laid-the-foundation-for-the-founding-of-starry

Proof: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/01/27/supreme-court-ruling-that-changed-tvs-future-and-maybe-the-internet.html

Proof: https://twitter.com/ckanojia

Comments: 414 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

Rainstorme540 karma


I studied your case as part of my Copyrights class and am a little shocked at how poorly you described both what you were doing and why the ruling was against you in this post. Would you like to try again with a more honest, less biased description of what the business was and how the case went?

starry_internet48 karma

Of course, I am biased. There should be no mystery about that, as were the First Circuit and Second Circuit and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito - who all found in favor of Aereo.

grocho133 karma

Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito - who all found in favor of Aereo.

This tells me what I need to know.

tahlyn53 karma

Yep. You can always trust those three to be on the wrong side of almost every issue.

starry_internet37 karma

The real conundrum is: if you don't follow the text of the law, then what is the law? And that was the Justices' argument - they didn't side with us because they loved us, they sided with us because that's what the law said. The words are the words - and if you don't like the words, then Congress should change it.

That's a very simple explanation, but really the take on why they found in favor of Aereo.

nowyourdoingit271 karma

Can you quickly explain from your first hand point of view the legal arguments the incumbents used to shut you down?

starry_internet433 karma

The incumbents accused us of facilitating public performances in violation of copyright law. Our argument was that each subscriber had an individual OTA antenna and individual DVR and that the performance was private, and therefore, not a violation.

nowyourdoingit189 karma

So essentially the SC said you made it easier to get around the incumbents monopoly and shut you down? Did you consider pivoting the service slightly or establishing the corp in another jurisdiction?

starry_internet197 karma

No, jurisdiction didn't matter because copyright is a federal matter. (And FWIW, wasn't a big fan of living in Costa Rica... :-) )

Kinder22192 karma

How did you get the antenna to stay in the cloud? Balloon or something?

Thanks, I'll see myself out.

starry_internet76 karma


brown_monkey_98 karma

What are your thoughts on broadband access in rural areas? Do you thing low earth orbit satellite internet like Starlink will improve access and competition, or just become another entrenched monopoly?

starry_internet182 karma

Low earth orbit satellites are interesting, except capacity will be a challenge. They are short-term solutions for remote areas that don't have access today. But, true solutions are 1) fiber that is gov subsidized or 2) cellular as underutilized capacity becomes more and more prevalent.

meldaddy056 karma

Starry is focused on urban settings currently, what role and when does Suburban and/or Rural play into growth strategy?

starry_internet11 karma

Suburban - we're already beginning to touch. In the markets we are in, there is so much opportunity to keep growing at near 100% every year by just keeping on doing what we're doing.

RE: rural, we were awarded $268M in subsidies in the FCC's RDOF and we'll kick that off in the near future.

ArsenalOnward87 karma

Hey Chet. No questions, just wanted to say I was there for your Aereo NY Tech Meetup WAAAAY back when (God, was it really that long ago?) and I remember thinking you guys had some really awesome tech. It's a real shame things ended the way they did, but hopefully on reflection you realize that you touched on something genuinely "cool", which IMO is hard to do in the tech world.

Best of luck on the new venture!

starry_internet36 karma

HUGS. Thanks - appreciate that.

wasthinkingforanhour28 karma

  1. Reminescing on it now, and with what you know now, what would you have done differently to achieve success for Aereo, if you could?
  2. What does it take to be able to capitalize on a brilliant and innovative idea?

starry_internet60 karma

  1. If there was an alternative that was safer, we would have started the company with that. In the media business, there is no way to buy a seat at the table. Every successful company has used a copyright argument of some sort (think Sony VHS, Netflix, etc.)
  2. Grit. Lots of grit. Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is the only thing that matters.

rp_Neo200026 karma

I loved your company! I hated the SC decision because it screwed out what was real innovation!

My question really is - did you consider releasing the tech/hardware as standalone kits or was that just not possible? Something similar to FireTV Recast?

starry_internet28 karma

Its not a great customer experience mainly because multi-path interference is a real problem, which is why we did a centralized location for where you could eliminate multi-path interference.

espero22 karma

How could you afford the trial? I imagine the legal fees and losing the case must have been extremely expensive. Why not just seddle?

starry_internet46 karma

There was no point in settling - the whole point was to change the industry in favor of consumers. Remember - we had won at the District and Appellate courts in multiple circuits BEFORE we got to SCOTUS.

espero13 karma

Okay I understand. But how could you afford it?

starry_internet59 karma

We had great investors who were willing to take a calculated risk. In venture investing, winning big matters more than losing. And all of our investors were aligned with the idea of 'win big or go home.'

Zarvon18 karma

What's your favorite tequila?

(And also, Aereo was so cool!)

starry_internet19 karma

Casamigos when I am feeling *rich*, 1800 Silver when I am not.

namespace51514 karma

I followed the Aereo story and was ultimately disappointed like yourself with how it turned out. Do you ever think the monopoly that ISPs have over the industry will stifle the rebroadcasting efforts your aiming for and how do you see your way around all the bureaucracy to accomplish the finished product? If memory serves correct, it was the cable/TV industry that was the biggest opposer back then; how do you see this being different with ISPs at the helm? ...side question: do you see the new ATSC stack playing into any of it?

starry_internet16 karma

Aereo's opposing parties were not the cable companies, it was the broadcasters.

Starry is an internet service provider (no content!) with its own proprietary technology and licensed spectrum, so we are unstoppable!

RE: ATSC, it does not play into any of this.

jkksldkjflskjdsflkdj7 karma

How are you solving the issue of signal loss caused by trees, structures in order to provide more coverage for your product?

starry_internet20 karma

You cannot penetrate modern construction material with millimeter waves - and if anyone is claiming they can, they're making it up!

We have enough power margin in our link budgets to get through 1-2 trees, but not a forest. We built our tech stack to accomplish this and we rely on an outdoor transceiver to overcome the building material issue.

EvilWalnut6 karma

At the time Aereo was being attacked by cable operators, the Telco I worked for was all-in on your services -- they were communicating internally about how great Aereo was and how much it would help us create an OTA product, we mentioned it several times in training bulletins we sent out. It was quite a disappointment when the court ruling came out and we were forced to abandon it.

Starry looks quite a different arena than TV operator... How do you see your company measuring up to existing competitors like Helium network, and also those Telcos that were once a partner and may now be a competitor?

starry_internet9 karma

67% of the country (US) has a single broadband provider and no choices for consumers. There's a lot of room for competition to improve service and drive quality.

Starry is a unique company in that we have licensed spectrum that covers 40M households across the country and Starry has the lowest cost of build (by orders of magnitude) in the category.

meldaddy055 karma

Can you touch on your paths forward?

1) Should you receive minimum cash from FMAC and go public - beyond the technology, what is your plan of attack for mindshare and market expansion; and

2) what is your plan B, should your redemptions be consistent with other recent deals?

starry_internet5 karma

  1. Data suggest in the markets we are operating that we are taking 25%+ share in the first year. We feel like there is a lot of demand especially in areas where there is only one to two providers. (Raise your hand if you love your ISP!) As for geographic expansion, we have not full disclosed our plans (depending on the capital situation) we are targeting a minimum 1-6 cities a year.
  2. We feel really good about where we are at. We are real business with real customers. See more here. We have a lot organic growth in our markets. So, whether it's a good market or bad market, good companies always find a way to get capital. In summary, we feel good about getting this done.

Thebigfatdog4 karma

Do you think Aereo business model could be implemented in other countries (Canada for example)?

starry_internet14 karma

Why would you want to do that today when all video is already over the top (streaming)? And, ultimately, I believe all video will be available on the internet. Someone had to start it, and that's what Aereo did ten years ago.

FunDeckHermit4 karma

What will be the next revolution?

starry_internet24 karma

It will be a social revolution if economic inequality is not addressed.

ScrewWorkn4 karma

Agreed. I’ll never understand why the 97% don’t take over.

starry_internet9 karma

I'll bring the technology.

robboat2 karma

Do you regularly encrypt your communications? Do you trust the privacy and integrity? Does your answer change in light of coming availability of quantum computing?

starry_internet5 karma

Personal communications? Yes, I do.

but you are hitting on a really important point. Security is going to be a critical requirement for communications. As quantum happens, there will be no secrets.

starry_internet2 karma

Am investigating telepathic communications :-)

benjimus11382 karma

What is your favorite cereal?

starry_internet2 karma

I don't eat cereal. Sorry! If I try one, what do you recommend?

OBAFGKM172 karma

As at least 2 of the big 3 cellular carriers seem to be going hard in the FWA space based on this weekend's Super Bowl commercials, where do you see Starry fitting in that market given your relatively limited spectrum holdings (in comparison), and the higher installation/maintenance costs and performance limitations inherent in a G.Fast architecture compared to true wireless last mile delivery?

starry_internet3 karma

Not all FWA is equal.

Anybody who is doing mid-band or below is capacity constrained. A typical fixed customer is consuming 60X more than a mobile customer. By using large channels and massive MiMO, Starry is able to multiply our spectrum by several-fold to deliver the capacity we do to customers.

In all fairness, Starry is most appropriate where there is requisite density (say 1,000+ homes per sq mile), whereas mid-band based approach make more sense for less dense and more rural areas - or if you live next to a highway.

meldaddy053 karma

What is the game plan to make sure consumers appreciate the difference? Or do you potentially run into a Betamax vs. VHS.

starry_internet3 karma

Keep it simple. Serve the customer well and ultimately, my belief is a good unlimited, customer service experience will win the day.

MrStompy1 karma

ARe you planning to launch another project?

starry_internet3 karma

Absolutely: https://starry.com/

J_Bagelsby1 karma

What's the airspeed velocity of a laden swallow?

meldaddy052 karma

airspeed velocity of a laden swallow?

24 miles per hour or 11 meters per second

starry_internet2 karma

^^^^ there's your answer :-)

richardstan1 karma

I think the answer is yes but were you anticipating a law suit from the beginning? The CNBC article talks about you quickly wanting to find out if would work or not work. Were the investors putting in $90 million clearly aware that was your business plan from the start? Was the money for the legal fees always expected to come from those investments? Do you think you would have had a better outcome by asking for permission to retransmit the public broadcasts?

starry_internet2 karma

Yes, we expected a lawsuit. And, no one gives you $90 million on Day 1. You have to prove its a viable business and then you raise money at each business and court milestone.

The permission is not available.

Lawmight1 karma

Where they scared of this project ? Did someone else try to steal the project afterwards ?

starry_internet2 karma

People are always scared of change or new things.

gregra1931 karma

I was interested in your service back in the day, but didn’t live in a supported city.

Were the tiny antennas actually powerful enough to receive OTA signals? Did you have an individual stream from each antenna to the Cloud? If not, was this a major part of the Broadcasters’ legal argument?

starry_internet2 karma

Yep. Individual antennas and individual streams and individual DVRs.

Yep. Powerful enough to receive OTA signals in each market.

meldaddy051 karma

What are the impacts to Starry's growth with the on-going delay in Gigi Sohn's confirmation to the FCC?

starry_internet3 karma

No impact to Starry's growth, but I think it's important that we have a full-strength FCC to do the work that's necessary, especially given the amount of broadband funding that is coming from the federal government.

I like Gigi a lot. She's always been fair, transparent and pragmatic in her approach on policy issues. I hope she gets confirmed soon.