In this time of deep hurt, a message from our CEO
Jun 5th, 2020
To everyone who is part of Starry: our valued employees, customers, partners and investors.
You may have been wondering why Starry or I haven’t spoken out on social media this week. It has been a choice on my part to reflect and be deliberate.
I am a person of color, a minority immigrant who was not born into privilege. I’ve had my share of discriminatory experiences in America, but I cannot even begin to imagine what a Black person in this country experiences. I have known fear of unquestioned authority, misguided policies and have firsthand experience with being beaten by the police in my home country. My life experiences make me deeply skeptical of empty words because I have seen them used to deflect, pacify and ultimately, manipulate the public.
This week, we’ve seen companies and organizations of all stripes posting blackout banners and messages of support on Instagram and other channels, but the real question for us has been, what actions will they take to actually agitate for change? And what actions will we take, beyond words, to be the change we think is necessary?
We see it time and again. Companies wrap themselves in social justice movements to burnish a brand position or just to play defense. They make beautiful social posts, television advertisements and even donate gobs of money to great organizations. But then, they stop. They move on and leave a rubble of broken promises and cynical people in their wake, when what we needed from them was the courage to make real, lasting change.
Perhaps it’s lost on some, but the purpose of these empty ‘I’m with you’ statements is to anesthetize. An empty ‘I’m with you’ is the equivalent of a cheap sugar rush with no sustaining nutritional value for society. Quite often, these same companies spend untold millions to water down regulations and pass spectacularly damaging legislation. And, our so-called social platforms are perhaps even more damaging, given their reach and the utter chaos that exists in their naive and unformed approach to ‘standards of practice.’
It’s not just ironic, but utterly predictable that calls for unity are made on platforms that are nothing more than mere tools for monetizing public sentiment, whichever way public sentiment may lean.
Here’s the thing.
Black Lives didn’t just start to matter this week. Black Lives have always mattered. But the social fabric of our country is fundamentally unequal and it’s my belief that we all have a responsibility to do something about it, to do something more than just post a tweet that says, ‘I’m with you.’ Each one of us has a responsibility to do more than just be outraged about George Floyd’s murder.
Starry is an internet service provider. We’re founded on the simple idea that everyone deserves affordable internet access. Why? Because internet access is the bridge to economic opportunity, education, health care and so much more. Internet access can fuel social advancement and wealth creation unlike any other utility. And yet, millions of Americans – the vast majority of whom are people of color – are locked out of that opportunity.
We built our company to break down a system we felt was unaffordable, unequal and dominated by unregulated monopolies. There’s a reason why communities of color – Black communities – are underserved and under-connected and these are the structural barriers that we’re trying to break down. Internet access is the modern equivalent to having roads and electricity; if you and your community don’t have it, you don’t stand a chance of success in modern society.
Systemic inequality exists everywhere – not just in policing, but also in our education, health care system and in where we live. We know segregated communities can breed ignorance and fear. And let’s not forget which communities have disproportionately borne the impacts of COVID-19. Communities of color continue to pay the price for this inequality – often with their lives – while the stock market continues to tick upward. What does this tell us? It tells me, there is a vast disconnect between the reality of Black Lives in America and how our society values those lives. Everyone makes mistakes, I know I have, but surely the answer to all problems cannot be excessive militarization of law enforcement and a presumption of guilt based on circumstances.
Our great American experiment can only continue if everyone has a fair shot at being full participants in this great system that is supposed to be for the people, by the people.
Starry alone can’t fix racial and economic injustice, no one entity can. But we can keep doing what we’re good at: delivering low-cost, high-quality internet access to communities ignored and long forgotten by the system. That is something we CAN fix. I believe that governments can provide resources and help set the agenda for change, but it’s ultimately on us to build the future.
Nonviolent protests and demonstrations serve a multitude of purposes. One of the most important purposes that peaceful demonstration serves is that it can create lasting inspiration for change. I hope what emerges from this moment is more than just words and empty promises. I do not want to waste this moment in time, and I want to challenge myself and others around me to do our duty to our collective society.
Here’s my commitment to our employees, our subscribers and the communities we serve:
· We’re going to continue with our mission and what we set out to do. We’re going to expand more broadband opportunity through our Starry Connect program. That means doubling down on serving public and affordable housing communities and finding new and creative ways to deliver free and low-cost internet access.
· We’re going to launch later this year the Starry Apprenticeship Program, to fuel more economic opportunity in communities of color, by creating a training and jobs pipeline to good, well-paying jobs in our company.
· And, we’re going to continue to listen to our employees, our subscribers and our communities to ensure that our words match our actions, in our business and policies. We don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, but we'll take every good one that comes our way.
So, if you’re a company or an investor that says Black Lives Matter, your actions must match your words. That means, build businesses, products and services that serve diverse communities. Invest in entrepreneurs and communities that don’t look like or have the same life experiences as you. And most importantly, hire people that don’t look like you; hire people that reflect the community you serve and empower them.
When it comes to fighting inequality and fighting for racial justice, expanding internet access is our very small piece of the puzzle. That’s OUR calling, so we will go about doing that with as much integrity and passion as we can find in ourselves and others like us.
What will yours be?
Co-Founder and CEO