Another Public Service Announcement on Clearwire

Someone at Clearwire must be monitoring blogs, because a representative from them named Michael called me, presumably in response to this post. Since I have no idea how else he would know about my displeasure with Clearwire, I would like to say “hello!” to the Clearwire person and also warn readers about the company.

Earlier I commented on the appropriateness of Clearwire’s name: “I say “aptly,” though I mean that rather than having a “clear” meaning “free of any obstructions or unwanted” connection, you’ll have a “clear” as in “frequently does not exist” connection.” Now I at least have a stated reason: Clearwire says they will throttle your bandwidth if you download or upload enough information. My problem turned out to be BitTorrent, a relatively common protocol that is used to transfer large files across the Internet. If you use your Internet access enough enough, Clearwire will begin paring it back to the point that it’s no longer broadband. They appear to do this almost punitively, as though they perceive BitTorrent or other users as parasites. This seems odd for a company that sells, you know, Internet connectivity, but there you have it.

On the “About Clearwire” FAQ section of the company’s website, a question asks if Clearwire is as reliable as cable or dial-up. Their answer: “Yes. With Clearwire, you’ll enjoy an always-on, always-secure connection that never ties up your phone line.” They do not, however, mention that they can restrict your service without notice and without telling you about the restrictions in their advertising. Instead, they lie by omission and bury whatever restrictions exists in a long contract of adhesion. Perhaps cable companies and other Internet service providers do the same, but if so, I at least haven’t noticed. The most pernicious aspect of this is the lack of notification about what was happening or what would happen. The website Clearwiresucks.com appears to have a variety of user complaints similar to mine, many of them also centering on BitTorrent and downloading issues.

Bandwidth throttling wasn’t a noticeable problem with my last provider, Millennium Cable. Now I wish I’d stuck with them, since I’ve spent far more money in the form of time just messing around with Clearwire than I’ve saved by switching. When my contract ends, I’ll go back to cable or DSL.

To be fair, Michael, the Clearwire representative, reset the restrictions on my account. But that such restrictions exist at all sucks, as the “Clearwiresucks.com” website puts it. In short: don’t buy Clearwire’s service because they’ll restrict your bandwidth just for using the Internet. You can read more about the larger debate from this Ars Technica post on Comcast’s bandwidth throttling. The best part:

“There a single fact here that [Comcast] cannot deny,” [Columbia Law Professor Timothy] Wu explained, “which is that the Associated Press and EFF [[the Electronic Frontier Foundation]] which are users of the Internet, sought to use an application a certain way, and they were blocked… Now [the Comcast representative is] saying that they weren’t using the Internet in the ‘right way.’ They weren’t using these applications in the ‘right way.’ Well the whole problem is that Comcast shouldn’t be telling people how they’re supposed to use applications.”

I agree, and Clearwire shouldn’t be telling me how to use my Internet connection. And if they are going to tell me how, they should at least tell me in advance instead of waiting for me to discover the issue on my own.


In other news, I’ve been unusually quiet because the energies that I usually devote to writing posts are now going into an academic article. Expect more on that subject as well as the resumption of normal posting soon. The academic article has been harder to research because of the above Clearwire problems, which explains some of the vituperation I express.

19 responses

  1. I completely understand where you are coming from, unfortunately for me I do not have the option of switching from Clearwire to DSL.

    In short, Clearwire has done everything to me except provide the ability to “enjoy an always-on” “high-speed connection”. Which is why, much like yourself or the people at Clearwiresucks.com, I’ve made it my goal to inform the world just how poor Clearwire service is. The bottom line, Clearwire both sucks and blows and fails miserably in the delivery of their promised services.

    Clearwire Blows – Join the Revolution, Spread the Word, Force them to Improve or Go Away.

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  2. This is funny. I googled “clearwire sucks” just to see what came up and I see I’m not alone. Clearwire is by far the worst service I’ve ever had. The good news is, I have 5 months left in my contract.

    So here’s a new problem I’m having with Clearwire. I am a subscriber of Netflix. I like getting the DVDs in the mail, but I would rather just watch the movies through the Netflix website – play it now feature. Well… I CAN’T because Clearwire is slow! The movies buffers/pauses every 10 seconds rendering the movie unwatchable. I’m not sure how Netflix streams the movies, but it’s probably using Bittorrent technology which Clearwire hates because the company is run by a bunch of morons.

    Clearwire opened to the public last year as an IPO. The stock went from $19 a share to like $33. Today (April 13, 2009) it’s worthless. The company is going out of business lol…

    Not only that, I did an internet speed test lastnight and my Clearwire connection came up 1 better than dial-up and 1 lower than the crappiest DSL. The average cable modem was like 6 steps higher = 5.3x faster than Clearwire.

    AVOID CLEARWIRE! I have to reset my modem every few hours.

    Also, I hope this gets posted. As I was writing this my Clearwire connection crashed. Seriously.

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    • Be careful about your contract.
      I read about Clearwire renewing someones contract for another year after it ended, without their permission. Don’t let it happen to you.

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  3. I used to work for the company, and have a couple of things to say. First of all, I as an employee had a very hard time with the fact that they throttled certain connections. I would like to point out though that before such throttling happened, we would try to call the customer at least 5 times and let them know (to give ’em a chance). The reason for this is that often, bandwidth abuses are UNINTENTIONAL (like your computer is a bot-zombie) and in that case, throttling lets the user know they have a problem. Secondly, slow speeds or latency was almost ALWAYS due to one of 4 reasons: 1) Customer lives in a concrete basement, or WAY out of the coverage area (but still bought service because they were convinced it’d work “for them”), 2) They have the modem pointed in the wrong direction (yes, they’re HIGHLY directional), or laying down (no towers in hell that I know of..), 3) They have ultra-low-e windows (the kind Al Gore loves) that are coated in METAL, and they’re trying to shoot radio through them, or finally 4) Their modem is bad / there is a problem with the local tower.

    I can tell you though, that I’ve only seen 2 people get throttled, and both were running the connection within 95% of max open 24/7. Here’s a hint, they care WAY more about upstream bandwidth than downstream, so if you’re gonna torrent, use encryption (Deep Packet Inspection in use) and non-standard port numbers, and limit your upstream to about 80kbps (not kBps), and I doubt they’ll care. To the rest of you, ask your local office (NOT the 800 number) where the best tower for your area would be, then aim the blank flat side of the modem at it. It’s not line-of-sight required, but please use some common friggin-sense.. it’s still radio, please don’t bitch about it not working when you can’t be bothered to read the directions.

    BTW, if you ever have a problem with throttling, or signal (especially if you’re one of the tards that live in the middle of effing nowhere, miles from the advertised service area, and still think you deserve signal), they’ll let you out of the contract. Just call and request a tech, then, when they come/call, tell them you’re “not REALLY in the service area…”

    For all you bashers, it’s still the first/only all layer 2 ethernet ISP in the USA, and the latency is REMARKABLY low for wireless (was designed to work well with VoIP and gaming). Try gaming on a 3g network sometime..

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  4. Having had my bandwidth dropped to dialup speeds twice in the last year, I can tell you that in my case Clearwire gave me no warning either time, much less five phone calls.

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  5. I’m an ISP and competitor of Clearwire’s, so I have no love for them. I think the problem people have understanding Bittorrent and ISP’s hate of it is that it is like no other program/protocol and seriously degrades a network, especially wireless.

    See, from and ISP’s point of view, they are selling you Internet for your use. We ran an open source network analyzer, nTop, against a Bittorrent user. During a 12 hour period his computer contacted over 98,000,000 (yes million) other computers. And the user wasn’t even home. Now we have only a few thousand customers, so adding 98,000,000 more downloads to our network seriously degrades it.

    People who are web browsing or streaming video are using only one stream to one server. Bittorrent uses hundreds of streams simultaniously to hundreds of servers (peers). Since the Intenet IP protocols give each stream equal bandwidth, the Bittorrent users (less than 5% of users) are hogging more than 85% of the bandwidth degrading everyone else’s Internet experience.

    Then the ISP starts getting compaints from users, even Bittorrent users who are trying to web browse, about how slow the Intenet is. Do you blame us for hating Bittorrent? You want to download a file? Use FTP or HTTP; they don’t cause any problems. Not available from FTP or HTTP? That’s because whoever is “sharing” the file is too cheap to pay for the cost of the bandwidth needed to have millions of people download the file.

    Now I suggest anyone who wants to see what their bandwidth really costs call Sprint, Verizon, Qwest, whoever and ask them for a 3 Mbps private connection to the Internet. When the shock of paying $3000 per month for a private line wears off, realize you are sharing your current Internet connection with others and that you all as a group are paying for the bandwidth. So when you use a program like Bittorrent you are stealing bandwidth from those others who (with you) are collectively paying for it and giving it to people you don’t even know and will probably never meet.

    Many ISPs will start charging, via caps and overage charges, for the bandwidth their customers use. Wireless is more difficult because the bandwidth pipes are smaller, so they are more likely to throttle traffic and block uploads. Another strategy that may come into use because it is net neutral is to limit the maximum number of endpoints each user can contract in a given period of time, rendering Bittorrent as slow or slower than othe protocols.

    The problem I see with Clearwire is that they sell you a wireless connection without ever evaluating the quality of the connection in advance. Quality of a wireless connect is very location specific so they really should send out a technician to evaluate the quality of the service with full disclosure before asking you to sign a contract. That’s what we do with our wireless customers.

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    • well the problem with your assertion about bittorent is flawed. not everyone using it is an evil pirate who wants to hog everyones bandwidth…
      me im a computer tech who uses open source software. i have to download .iso images of linux that are well in excess of 10 to 12 gigs in size. for me at this point my internet options are either A. dialup or B. clearwire. so yeah…
      the simple fact is. if you advertise a service. you give that service. if you dont then well… you are liable for false advertising. simple as that.
      they advertise broadband speeds and broadbaned is defined as
      –adjective
      1. of, pertaining to, or responsive to a continuous, wide range of frequencies. Compare sharp (def. 23).
      2. pertaining to or denoting a type of high-speed data transmission in which the bandwidth is shared by more than one simultaneous signal.

      motice the continuous part? oh and the multiple signal part? yep…

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  6. Tony: Thanks very much for the explanation, and I don’t want what follows to come off as me sounding like a jerk. Nonetheless,if Clearwire (or others) are going to limit one’s bandwidth in the manner described, they should announce it in big, clear letters on their brochures, which I picked up in Capitol Hill. And they should announce your up/down transfer limits and when they’ll start to throttle you.

    This might be a structural problem in the market; since all ISPs have a limited, they should all provide such data, and not just in section 18, subsection III, clause E, where no normal person would find it. Perhaps this indicates that some kind of mandatory reporting or advertising regulation is necessary.

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  7. Now I suggest anyone who wants to see what their bandwidth really costs call Sprint, Verizon, Qwest, whoever and ask them for a 3 Mbps private connection to the Internet. When the shock of paying $3000 per month for a private line wears off,

    My office pays Cogent about $800/month for 100Mb/s to the internet. We’ve used it, too, and all we’ve heard from Cogent was a call from their salescritter asking if we might be interested in their gigabit connection. Not in an aggressive or threatening manner, either — he saw a sales opportunity.

    We pay more for bandwidth from other sources, but $10-$30 per Mb/s is the rule, not $1000/Mb/s.

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  8. Hey, I’m all for Clearwire announcing their intentions, which is partly why I don’t work there anymore, but there are a LOT of ISP’s that limit without warning, even ones with nice fat pipes to the home and fiber connecting the nodes. With regard to cost for dedicated SLA-type connections, your office is an end-user, not a service providor. Also, I’m willing to bet that your $800/100mbit is from either Metro Ethernet or city-wide fiber, whereas smaller rural ISP’s take it up the ass to get a SLA agreement with decent bandwidth to a POP in rural America. I remember ordering redundant OC3’s on fiber once for a market, and the guy was like, “you want that WHERE? Do you realize we actually have to roll a truck to run fiber for 5 miles for that? That will be $xxxxx for the install, and about ~6k a month.” Oh, and don’t get me started on the fact it took them 3 months to get installed.
    All I’m saying is that for your once-a-month linux distro torrent, or video streaming, Clearwire doesn’t block you. I’ll bet however, that you’re much more excited about downloading several gig of TV shows, Movies, and pr0n per day, and you leave your seeds for months. Or you’re a noob-tard that likes to leave limewire open to download your latest “pink” album, and don’t realize that 50000 leechers a day try to connect to your machine to get it too.
    Point being, you’re pissed at Clearwire, because they’re limiting your likely illegal behavior.
    One more tidbit I’d like to illuminate you on, airlink bandwidth is VERY affected by quality of signal, so if you have like 2 bars on your clearwire modem, and are pulling 1 mbit, that uses the same channel bandwidth as like 10mbit/s at 4 bars, or 20mbit/s at 5 bars. So if you’re getting bounced, check your signal, they go for the most egregious first.. They don’t mind the one pr0n-hound getting bounced if 10 more families and business continue to get better service as a result.

    It would always crack me up to be working at 2am on the network, and hear about customer service calls the next day.. “You interrupted a VERY important download..” heheheheh.

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    • I don’t know what bitorrent is and I certainly don’t do illegal activities on the Internet. But I do watch instant netflix and have a xbox360 that I use for online gaming. After 3 days, in the afternoon after work watching two shows and half an hour of gaming, the clearwire representative told me my broadband has been slowed down for excessive use of broadband. Now, for the past 5 days, I’m still waiting for my broadband to “speed,” up so I can continue watching the 5th season of The Office.

      Whatever technical reasons you have for backing up Clearwireless, bottom line is they suck balls.

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  9. What Tony Ray said is not true. I download files via HTTP and clearwire still throttles me. I am not using bittorrent or anything that allows multiple connections. Sounds like tony ray works for Clearwire. Glad to know Clearwire is losing money!

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  10. I was so pissed at Comcast that I did not take the time to research like I normally do. Well we have clear wire now even though we are supposedly .3 miles away from a tower the best we can get is 2 bars and that often drops to 1 bar. The best we can get is three bars and that is if I take the modem and hook it up to an extension cord and go out into my drive way. I am with in 30 days on the card we put it on so I am going to cancel payment and the card. They advertised 6mb down but we do not even get 2mb down on the best of days and often it is under 1mb.

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  11. I recently moved & Clearwire doesn’t work here. I’ve been on the phone with idiotic tech support & account services for over 200 minutes. They made an appt. to come to the house & never showed because it’s a known blind spot. Am I supposed to read minds?!! Never received a phone call to cancel the appt. Then after sitting on hold for 45 minutes I was promised a supervisor would call me to discuss my account since I refuse to pay a cancellation fee of $140 & I refuse to pay my monthly bill since I’m receiving ABSOLUTELY NO SERVICE. What I’d like to know is, how is a CRAPPY company like this one in business?

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  12. Why are you people complaining? You have seven days to annul your contract and return the modem if it doesn’t work for you. If it’s too slow why in the hell didn’t you return it immediately?

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    Hardware to hardwired/software to wetware.

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  14. I guess that I really won the lottery with Clearwire. I should start by saying that I am not a tech but rather an every day residential customer with a small business.

    When I first contacted Clearwire I had just got off the phone with the worst customer service known to man (T-Mobile) so when I called and got a real live person (that did speak english!)after two rings, it really got my attention.

    I asked if I was in range for service and the representative said that at best the modem would need to be third or fourth floor. They we`re right on the money, 2-3 bars on the third floor and 3-4 bars on the fourth floor. And now with their upgraded “Clear” modem 5 bars on any floor.

    Since that initial phone call I have contacted Clearwire about half a dozen issues from modem upgrades to billing issues that my credit card company created. Clearwire bent over backwards for me and gave me a grace period to resolve the problems that my credit card company created.

    In short, I have got a live person from Clearwires technical and billing every time I have called and never had to wait on hold and have been treated with the utmost courtesy and had a great uninterrupted connection even with 20+ browsers open while receiving streaming video from Netflix.

    In this day and age of unlimited customer service nightmares I am very happy to say that I am extremely happy with my Clearwire service and would and do highly recommend their service!

    PS; Don`t forget who founded Clearwire,he knows a little bit about the industry and what customers expect. If you don`t know it is the same person that owns the Seattle Seahawks. hmmmm

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  15. 02/24/2010. 04:29 AM PST.

    I seriously HATE THEM.

    I signed up February 2009. Since then, I have had NOTHING but problems. When I say problems, this is what I mean: No signal, poor signal, horrible signal, signal outage, no internet, slow internet, REALLY slow internet, lagging, HORRIBLY slow upload/download speeds, connection problems.

    I have two accounts. The one that I signed up in February 2009 was for me && my husband. Then I signed up for another account for my in-laws I believe in March 2009. Now, over here in Seattle, they have been busy switching Clearwire over to Clear. For free. Promising faster upload && download speeds, better connectivity, etc. So, I got an e-mail for MY account, saying that in order to receive my upgrade, I needed to fill out a form on their website, because if I didn’t, my internet wouldn’t work. So I filled out the form, then they said they would be sending me a new modem. I got the new modem a couple days later, (This was back in October or November 2009 btw) && plugged it in. NOTHING. I didn’t even bother calling, because I’ve called before, && they happen to have some of the SHITTIEST customer service that ever was, so I just didn’t see a point, plus my Clearwire modem still worked, so I figured they hadn’t switched over yet. Then, a few weeks ago, my internet totally just stopped working. I couldn’t figure it out for hours, until I remembered about the new Clear modem. So I plugged that in, voila, internet again. I find it interesting that I didn’t get any sort of e-mail or phone call or even just a mailer saying they were going to switch over, or what date, etc. Then my father in-law tells me that he hasn’t had internet for like three weeks. WTF?? So I call Clearwire to figure it out. Then some jackass proceeds to tell me it’s MY fault that they don;t have any internet, because I didn’t do the process right. He said that I filled out a form, && got the back legwork of switching over completed, but I didn’t finish filling out the form to get the new modem. He says that it looked like someone on my end didn’t complete everything, or else a new modem would have been sent out. So, he tells me to call Clearwire, that they’re open from 6 AM PST – 8 PM PST. So I call. Tells me they are closed. He tells me to call back, try different extensions. I again tell him it’s not working. He tells me that I guess I’ll just have to wait until 9 AM to call. I am now late to work, as it is 8:45 AM. I spend 30 minutes waiting for a damn rep, then spent 30 mins talking to a rep who didn’t know his ass from his face. So when I get to work, I call Clearwire. The new rep I am now talking with, tells me THAT IT IS NOT MY FAULT, that it is CLEARWIRE’S fault I never received a new modem. HA! I ask for a credit. He says he will see what he can do. I end up getting a $20 credit.

    So, about an hour && a half ago, my internet goes out again. For like the 4938573947523947549574th times since I’ve had the piece of shit. So I hop onto someone else’s UNsecured wireless network in our apartment building, so that I can speak with another idiot who thinks he is a CUSTOMER SERVICE rep. – eye roll.

    Here’s the conversation:

    Hello Gia. Please wait while we find a CLEAR specialist to help you.
    Your question was: My internet is NOT working. This happens to me about 3 or 4 times a month, always between the times of 1 am – 5 am PST. My internet will usually be gone from anywhere to 2 – 4 hours. This is when I work, && it really pisses me off. I am not paying you to NOT have internet service for any period of time.
    You have been connected to Michael Jordan.
    Michael Jordan: Hi Jinna! I’ll be happy to help you today!
    Gia: Michael Jordan?
    Michael Jordan: The reason this is, is because the towers are having mandatory updates applied to them which disconnects the service.
    Gia: Ok, well I think I should get a credit on my account every time this happens.
    Gia: && I was NEVER told this when I signed up.
    Michael Jordan: We only give credits if it lasts for more than 24 hours at a time.
    Gia: That’s bullshit.
    Gia: I’m supposed to be working right now.
    Gia: But guess what?
    Gia: I CAN’T.
    Gia: I’m using someone ELSE’S unsecured wireless network to talk to you right now.
    Michael Jordan: I apologize for the inconvenience.
    Gia: && I can’t cancel, because I have a stupid 2 year contract with you.
    Gia: You can say that you’re sorry all you want, but how does that fix MY problem Michael Jordan?
    Gia: Do you have ANY idea, how much this interferes with my work schedule?
    Michael Jordan: I would advise that you speak with tech support from 9am to 10pm for further assistance at 888-888-3113.
    Gia: You bet I’m going to. AGAIN. This isn’t the first problem I’ve had with Clearwire, && I’m willing to bet my life, it won’t be the last.
    Your session has ended. You may now close this window.

    Wasn’t he helpful? NOT. I am SO pissed off right now. My husband works graveyard, so I do all my work then as well, so we can keep the same sleeping schedule. Right now, I can’t work. I CANNOT use UNsecured internet for my work…

    So, don’t get Clearwire. It’s not worth it. The hassle, the fight. Ridiculous. Yes, they are cheap… FOR A REASON. I will be heading back to Comcast when my contract is up, && I will also, be blogging, e-mailing, anyone, && everyone I possibly can, that will listen, all the reasons to NEVER get Clearwire, && why they suck ass.

    – GIA. Seattle, WA.

    Like

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