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 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 “” 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.

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