Alas, the curse of the early adopter. I was really excited to switch to Clearwire, especailly after my beloved ISP for many years, Seattle’s own Speakeasy Networks was purchased by Best Buy. I’m not exactly a Best Buy fan.
I should have done some more research before signing up, though. It turns out that Clearwire is actually not for everyone, and the things they don’t support well are not really called out in the terms of service. To help future consumers, I’ve put together a simple guide:
Clearwire is not for you if you’re a pirate.
Intellectual property pirate, that is. I think that the company has no problem with peg legs and eye patches. Reading some reviews online, I found that ClearWire openly and aggressively throttles traffic from P2P apps such as BitTorrent. No big deal, I almost never use BitTorrent, and I never ever pirate movies, software, or music.
Clearwire is not for you if you want to watch perfectly legal web video.
Sure, BitTorrent is used largely for piracy and/or pornography, sure the copyright status of YouTube videos is often dicey, but what about Hulu? Hulu is the Republican National Committee of web video, as square, legal, and business-friendly as it gets. Hulu also provides some of the most conclusive proof that My connection is throttled, as I can reliably watch the first half of an hour-long drama no problem, but the second half is unbearably slow. Letting me watch the first half of a really engaging show like House but not the second is just mean-spirited. Now I’ll never know if it was Lupus, Vasculitis, or Paraneoplastic syndrome!
Clearwire is not for you if you want to listen to internet radio.
OK, maybe streaming video is too much to ask for even if the video bitrate is well within the download bitrate I’m paying for. How about streaming audio? Well, if I’ve been doing anything network-intensive in the last few hours, the live audio stream from my favorite NPR station to my Chumby stops working.
Clearwire is not for you if you’re a digital photographer.
Every time I try to upload more than a dozen or so pictures to Flickr via the Uploadr, I hit whatever mysterious upload cap there is and the last of them just completely fail with the “Houston, we have a problem” error message. Just like with Hulu, it works fine for a little while before some opaque limit is hit and then it grinds to a halt. How important is this really? It’s not like very many people actually use Flickr.
Clearwire is not for you if you need to work from home.
After several years of working from home exclusively, I try not to work from home any more than I need to, but when I need to make a VPN/Remote Desktop connection to my PC at work, it works out pretty poorly. I know the problem isn’t with my company’s network connection, as when I do VPN/Remote Desktop from a coffeeshop with Wi-fi, it’s like I’m at my desk. Maybe this is meant as some sort of feature? Helping me improve my work-life balance?
Clearwire is not for you if you’re a Linux user.
As linux users tend to be power users who not only download huge ISOs, but also download ISOs using the infamous BitTorrent network. Fortunately, for me, I haven’t been a Linux user for some time.
Clearwire is not for you if you’re a Mac user.
This was particularly painful. The first day with a gorgeous new iMac, some software I wanted to run required a large OS X update… which by the end of the download, was coming down at sub-dialup speeds.
Clearwire is not for you if you’re a Microsoft Windows user.
Even more painful and disruptive to download than the OS X updates are the frequent, vital, and huge updates that Windows XP needs.
Ouch. That has turned out to be a very negative summary above, and I usually try to be a positive person. So, who would Clearwire be ideal for? Here are some groups of people that I can think of for whom Clearwire would work well enough:
- The last holdouts of the gopher protocol, those who are convinced that this whole web/multimedia business is just a passing fad.
- People who want high-speed internet but don’t actually have any computers or network devices.
- Dead people.