Clear, the 4G WiMax provider, your pants are on fire

by Thomas Brady

They advertise the heck out of “unlimited,” “uncapped” wireless connections, but the truth is they have unpublished caps that you’ll get blacklisted for exceeding. And once you’re blacklisted, you get a .5 MBps (compared to the 3 to 6 you’re typically supposed to get) until the end of the billing cycle.

This practice is not the offensive part. I don’t like it, but there is no law against them have such a policy. The real problem is their incessant deceit regarding the practice.

You will encounter nothing but lies if you reach out to them for support in any of the available methods (live chat, telephone, message boards, FAQ site, etc.). They will tell you, if you get a knowledgable representative, that they do meter accounts and that they will “balance” performance “during peak hours” (3 to 11 PM I was told most often, thought I was given several different ranges) so that all customers get the best possible service.

Let me say that again more directly. Clear will tell you two things that seem to have nothing to do with each other, and these are the only actions they’ll own up to. 1) During peak usage times, customers will see their individual bandwidth “balanced” so that each customer can have the best possible service. 2) If you exceed un unpublished usage amount, you will be “managed” - that is, your bandwidth will be capped - only for a few hours and only during peak usage times.

If these two statements were true, I would still be a Clear customer.

The truth is, I downloaded a few Linux Distributions (several 4 GB downloads) within the first couple days of my service cycle. I exceeded the unpublished cap. From then on at any time of day I got a .5 MBps connection speed.

Now, if other Clear customers in my immediate vicinity were also getting a .5 MBps connection speed, their story might add up. The interesting thing is I had two Clear modems: a home modem and a mobile modem, each with its own account. The more interesting thing is that my mobile modem, sitting just inches from my home modem, was getting 3-5 MBps connection speeds simultaneously with my home modem getting .5 speeds.

When I called technical support and told them this, their explanation was that my home modem must be connecting to a tower that was under extremely heavy usage, and was therefore only able to provide .5 MBps connection speeds to all users. Oh, and that my mobile modem must be connecting to another tower that was doing just fine. I was told that I could “move the modems around” to try to get them to connect to different towers. 

Little did Clear know that I was moving that day. I tried my home modem in every spot in the house out of which I was moving, and got .5 everywhere. I tried the home modem in every room at the new house - 4 miles away and well outside the range of the towers that had serviced me at the old house - and got .5 everywhere.

The USB modem, in the same places, got a consistent 3 MBps or greater connection.

The truth: Clear will blacklist you if you break their unpublished “cap,” and you will get a .5 MBps (sometimes as much as 1 MBps) connection speed until the end of the billing cycle. And they will lie to you about all of this. If you plan to use Netflix or any online gaming or anything that requires moderate to heavy bandwidth usage, Clear is not for you.