Friday, September 24, 2010

hi clear, bye clear

A few months ago, I had to cancel my home internet service with Time Warner. It turns out, TWC was executing a telemarketing campaign with some severely broken equipment. This meant random calls to my cellphone that never left a message and in the off chance I did manage to answer I was promptly hung up on. TWC left no way to get in touch with anybody who might be responsible for the calls, and letters I wrote asking them to stop went unanswered, so after two weeks I finally told them to cancel service.

To replace home connectivity, I went out and snagged a 4G wireless modem from Clear. The prospect of 6MB that I could take on the road with me for less than TWC was charging me sounded like a good deal, and for the past 3 months it's been everything I'd hoped for. Less downtime, and waaaaay less harrassing phone calls.

However, earlier this month (last Friday in fact), Clear instituted some mechanism that attempts to rate limit users who pass an unspecified bandwidth usage threshold. If you trip their bandwidth-hog alarm, your connection drops from 6Mb to 0.25Mb download speeds, and this makes doing pretty much anything relatively impossible... the speed is basically bumped below the throughput of a dialup modem from 1999. It is impossible to watch Netflix movies uninterrupted, and it's introduced some real problems when I try to play games or use VoIP services.

The intent is pretty obvious. Rather than scale up their bandwidth to accomodate a large influx of customers, they have chosen to ration out access. They were clearly assuming people would only be using the service to check email or maybe listen to a few mp3's... fools burning 30 hours a week on movies and video games will quite easily wreck that business model. The problem is that rather than cap me at the speed I've paid for, they serve up more than I paid for (12Mb) until I hit this limit, and then slap on a draconian limit to punish me for the amount of traffic I've pushed. From my point of view, I have very little to show for it since most of the bandwidth is from dynamic services (ie, Netflix and WoW) rather than from downloading files.

It's basically akin to flipping on the TV to discover that the cable company is only going to let you watch public access channels and CSPAN because you've spent entirely too much time watching HBO this month.

This is a total deal breaker for me. I don't really care about throughput so long as it's greater than 1Mb. I'd be happy taking a price break and using the slower service to having my provider suddenly and without any warning yank my leash for violating rules I don't understand and have no way of monitoring. Unfortunately for Clear, the faster (and cheaper) solution is to just cancel the account and install DSL service rather than give them "a month" to iron out the bugs in their rate limiting ubersystem.