The Lynchpin of the Future
When your Internet fails, you’re stuck in time. Common Networks is coming to the rescue
One of my favorite weekend activities is Facetime-ing with my parents in Rio. We talk a bit but mostly they just hang out with their grandkids, watching them play, sing, dance and run around the house. Warm fuzzy family feelings aside, the experience is far from seamless. The Internet doesn’t always work: the video freezes, we have to reconnect multiple times. Believe it or not, in Brazil the Internet breaks when it rains.
You may laugh at that but tens of millions of people in America have the same (or worse) Internet experience as that of my parents’ — and they live in a developing country in South America.
In Silicon Valley engineers and designers are building a future in which our machines and devices will be smart, autonomous and connected — from our doorbells and home security systems to our drones and cars. The great irony is that much of the bright future we are working toward critically depends on reliable and ubiquitous high-speed connectivity — which the United States is massively lacking.
We are far from Internet-access equity, as 62% of homes in the US have only one choice of provider. Perhaps not surprisingly, with no competition, the service is awful and consumers are not happy with what they’re getting: the average Net Promoter Score of an ISP is 2 out of 100 (in stark contrast, Apple’s NPS is 89).
And so, I am excited to announce our investment in Common Networks, which came out of stealth today and announced a $7.0 million Series A round, alongside our friends at Eclipse Ventures.
Common Network’s operative values: reliable, fast, transparent and affordable. Co-founders Zach, Mark, Jess and Grace worked together at Square for many years and have first-hand experience building and scaling new services and hardware products that challenge inefficient industries dominated by outdated monopolies.
Common Networks offers a radical improvement over the incumbents. The company aims to redefine wireless internet service for suburban dwellers, which currently make up 53% of the US population.
One example: today, residents of Alameda County, CA who choose Common Networks can get enterprise-grade Wi-Fi with guaranteed minimum 75 Mbps (download and upload speed) for an all-in flat fee of just $50/month. Compare that to the top 10 US internet providers, which deliver an average 16 Mbps for downloads and 6 Mbps for uploads. For context, it takes 15–20 Mbps to stream a 4k video and 65 Mbps to stream VR content.
Improving our nation’s bandwidth is a necessity, as more and more of our everyday lives run on the Internet. Demand is rapidly increasing:
- More people are working remotely, and doing so for longer periods of time. Upload speed is critical for productive video calls between teams, companies and customers.
- Jobs, as we all know, are changing. Re-educating the American workforce in a distributed manner will be crucial to our continued economic health. Millions of people rely on online education, blended education and MOOCs.
- Several mission-critical home activities are managed by connected devices and systems that require 100% uptime; 99.9% is not good enough when your safety is at stake. You don’t want your SimpliSafe alarm, NestCam security camera, Ring doorbell, Latch smart lock or Nest smoke alarm to skip a beat.
- We spend a lot of time at home consuming on-demand entertainment: Netflix already represents 30%+ of home entertainment revenue and Spotify brings in 20% of global music industry revenue. Experts expect this trend will grow.
- In-home smart assistants such as Alexa, Google Home and Apple’s Home Pod require always-on Internet connectivity and these services are poised to grow in popularity.
The Common Networks team believes internet connectivity should be available to everyone, everywhere. People who don’t have equal access to the internet are missing out on basic services, effectively being forced to live 20 years behind those with access. This gap will get wider and wider as more devices get smarter and more connected, and as new platforms emerge.
The company’s vision is made possible by installing and managing powerful and affordable wireless antennas that allow each home to be its own node in a vast, easy-to-expand network. By connecting multiple homes in a neighborhood, Common’s routing software makes sure that the quality and reliability of its service continues to improve as more customers join.
Soon people everywhere in the US will be able to harness the power of powerful, dependable Wi-Fi — whether that’s hosting a virtual meeting with coworkers or a long-distance family chat over video; binge-watching the latest episode of House of Cards; or taking an online class from Udacity to learn to code.