Renaissance Center Detroit

Gigabit service provider Starry Inc., working with Microsoft through the Airband Initiative, will provide broadband to underserved communities in Detroit. The agreement will bring the low-cost Starry Connect digital equity program to all serviceable addresses in zip codes in the city identified as being underserved and income-insecure.

Starry uses a hybrid approach that combines fiber and licensed gigabit fixed wireless technology. Work on the Detroit network will begin in 2022.

Airband began as a Microsoft initiative to work with service providers to make broadband available to unserved rural areas, primarily using fixed wireless, but has expanded to also focus on affordability. Starry began working with Airband last year on a project in Los Angeles focused on public housing projects.

Public housing projects were Starry Connect’s initial focus but the Detroit project marks an expansion of the program to individual households in eligible zip codes.

It is estimated that 40% of Detroit residents and almost 70% of public school students do not have broadband at home. Cost is said to be a significant barrier. Work on the project will begin next year.

“Home broadband access is essential to daily life. And yet, millions of Americans continue to go without it due to high costs. We think that’s unacceptable,” Virginia Lam Abrams, Starry’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs & Strategic Advancement, said in a press release. “We created Starry Connect to get broadband access to families who have been written off or left behind by traditional incumbent providers. By working with Microsoft, we can super-charge our impact in cities like Detroit, by being laser-focused on neighborhoods that are underserved by incumbents and as a result are grossly under-connected to the digital tools they need to thrive.”

The Airband/ Starry Los Angeles project was announced in October 2020. The goal was to provide service to the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) communities of Nickerson Gardens, Jordan Downs, Imperial Courts and Pueblo del Rio. The overall goal was to provide service to more than 3,600 housing units with about 9,000 residents.

Among other moves, Airband last year said that the two biggest winners of the Connect America Fund CAF II auction — Watch Communications and Wisper ISP – joined Airband.

Joan Engebretson contributed to this report. Updated to say Airband has begun to focus on broadband affordability.

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