If Portland is a test market for Clear…

About a year ago I switched from Comcast to Clear WiMax 4g because I don’t have TV but watch movies and TV shows online via Netflix and Hulu.  I listen to music via Pandora.  Sometimes I’ll send an email (get ready) with an attachment.  All the Comcast cables were getting messy in my living room and it just seemed so much easier to get a WiMax modem and put it upstairs in the spare bedroom.

When the service is working, it’s fine.  Not superfast, but good enough.  However, I started to notice that sometimes I would get almost no connection at all.  Like .3Mpbs.  That’s point-three.  Even though I signed up for 3Mpbs.  I suck at math, but I know .3 is less than 3 (it has something to do with the decimal.)  I’ve spent lots of time with customer service trying to figure out what’s wrong.  They usually want me to do useless crap like delete my cookies or create a new network connection.  It’s all just a way of stalling me because, as I found out yesterday, Clear throttles bandwidth.  Throttling basically means if I’m using a lot of bandwidth (bandwidth I’m paying for every month) and I start using too much or if other customers want to use it too, then my connection speed goes down like 300% (bad at math, but it’s at least that, right?).  My monthly bill remains the same.

Tonight, I wanted to watch a movie on Netflix and started getting an insanely slow buffering crawl bar.  So I decided to contact Clear, which you essentially have to do online–a TERRIBLE idea when you provide internet connectivity.  Below is a transcript of the Clear chat where they admit that they are throttling my bandwidth.  They don’t say throttling.  They just say things like “during times of high network congestion we may equalize everyone’s ability to enjoy a high-quality Internet experience” which completely misses the point that I’m not enjoying a high-quality Internet experience.  So I’m calling B.S. on that.  Really?  Everyone has a .37 download speed right now?  Equalized or penalized?

(Also, the chat was with someone with a first and last name.  I switched it to Clearwire because my complaint is with them, not him. Nothing else has been changed.)

Your question is: I have three bars on my modem but am getting only .37Mbps download and .49Mpbs upload. I just rebooted the modem.

Clearwire:  Hi Mike! I’m sorry to hear you’re having issues, but I’ll be happy to help you today.

Clearwire:  May I have the phone number associated with your account, please?

Mike:  503-xxx-xxxx

Mike:  we frequently watch movies on Netflix Watch Instantly

Clearwire:  Okay thank you Mike! I understand you are having some speed issues tonight correct?

Mike:  is my bandwidth being throttled?

Mike:  I just discovered Clear does this

Clearwire:  One moment please Mike

Clearwire:  Mike , I’m sorry that you’re seeing a slower connection than you are accustomed to. I assure you that our top priority is making sure that all of our customers have the best Internet experience possible, at all times. To do that, during times of high network congestion we may equalize everyone’s ability to enjoy a high-quality Internet experience.

Clearwire:  Please note that heavy usage could be caused by sharing your Internet connection via an unsecured router, a possible virus or programs running in the background that are constantly utilizing the network. I will be happy to help you make sure your Internet connection is optimized for the best connection possible

Mike:  okay, so how can I see how much bandwidth I’m consuming?

Mike:  this actually seems like it’s not part of the contract I signed

Mike:  it’s very frustrating to get poor connection speeds when I’m paying for higher ones

Clearwire:  I apologize Mike it is stated in the terms of service we may manage customers with a lot of data usage

Mike:  in the original terms I signed up for?

Mike:  it was never explained to me

Clearwire:  That’s correct, I apologize Mike

Mike:  I thought I was paying for 3Mpbs download

Mike:  actually, what I just need to know is how can I monitor my bandwidth consumption

Mike:  and when does my contract expire

Mike:  this is terrible customer service

Mike:  (not you, just the throttling part)

Clearwire:  Again I apologize Mike i can provide you with the current usage on your account but the bandwidth limit depends on the # of customers currently connected to a tower

Mike:  so you can never guarantee that I’ll get an acceptable download speed

Mike:  because the more customers you have online, the slower my connection is

Mike:  that’s terrible

Clearwire:  This process should only slow speeds for 2-3 hours

Mike:  well, that doesn’t really help if I want to watch a movie now

Mike:  and how is that 2-3 hours determined? you know other customers will be consuming less bandwidth then?

Mike:  this is very frustrating because a few months ago I spent HOURS on chat and the phone with slow bandwidth issues

Mike:  and no one ever told me to just wait because I was being throttled so other people could enjoy the service

Clearwire:  I apologize that you were not informed of this process Mike

Mike:  is Clear going to inform all of their customers and new customers that this is what happens?

Mike:  in a clear way (no pun intended)

Clearwire:  Currently i do not know, i know that it’s in the Terms of Service but i do not think Clear is going to directly inform customers

Mike:  ugh. sorry you have to take the brunt of this. but what’s the penalty for ending my contract

Mike:  I think I’ve had it about a year

Mike:  another year of this won’t do

Clearwire:  Unfortunately Mike, only our Account Services department has access to that information, you can reach them by phone at 888.888.3113, option 4 then option 4 again, M-F from 9am-8pm (9:00am-6:00pm HST). They’ll be happy to assist you with your inquiry.

Mike:  is it somewhere in my profile online?

Clearwire:  I apologize it is not

Mike:  oh man, okay, I’ll call the number tomorrow

Clearwire:  Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

Mike:  no, thanks for your help though

Clearwire:  You’re welcome Mike

Clearwire:  Thank you for chatting with Clear today! If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us; we are available in live WebChat 24 hours a day. Don’t forget you can now get nationwide coverage with our 4GPlus service! Have a great day!

Ugh.  So if Portland is a test market for Clear, it’s failing big time.  I hope that these Woodstock residents are successful in blocking a Clear wireless tower in their neighborhood.   All this hassle and it’s still unrelated to the WiMax connectivity problems highlighted in a video I posted this summer where my Clear modem would drop from 5 bars with the window open to 1-2 bars with the window closed….

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Mike Vogel

Hi, I'm the Writer & Director of Transmedia, Feature Films, Original Series, and Fiction. Portland, Oregon

2 thoughts on “If Portland is a test market for Clear…”

  1. Thanks for posting this Mike! I am having the exact same problem with Clear and I also live in Portland. I found your post by google searching “clear slow connection Portland”. Your post was super helpful. I did not know about the bandwidth throttle issue. It is interesting because I was watching a Netflix instant play last night at 2am and the connection was so slow it would take about 10min to buffer when I tried to rewind just a few minutes back in the movie. Clear’s explanation would not hold up in this case. How could I have been dealing with “high network congestion” at 2am on a Monday night in Portland! Give me a break. I am calling Clear. Thanks again for taking the time to post this! :)

  2. PS BTW – Clear sent me an updated modem a few months back. It did not increase the speed one bit, but it is sleeker looking. I have always gotten 5 bars on both the old modem and the new one so that is not the problem.

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