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May 22, 2012 3:40 PM   Subscribe

How does Clear stack up against Verizon DSL?

I'm in Washington, D.C. I have Verizon DSL, but it's painfully slow, and in the past couple of weeks, it has gotten completely unreliable. It times out about every minute. Talked to tech support, and they've offered nothing.

It's the 1.5Mb/s service, which is the fastest they offer at my address (no FiOS, either). It's always been slow, but at least fast enough to watch a Netflix show with a little time for buffering. Now Netflix just balks.

With this, I'm even more wanting to get out of Verizon.

Comcast refuses to offer service to my address due to the last tenant (over four years ago!) not paying their bill. So, that's not an option. RCN does not service my area (northern Columbia Heights).

I've been looking at Clear, and wondering if anybody has any experience with it as a home ISP. Will Netflix work in standard def? Can two people browse at the same time and not want to gnaw their arm off?

Is there another option?
posted by General Malaise to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
I don't have it, but my understanding is that its performance depends completely on how good of a "view" you have to its tower. Might be the kind of thing you have to try to find out.
posted by gjc at 7:10 PM on May 22, 2012

Best answer: We got Clear a few months ago (outside of Boston). Two of us use it with no problem. My husband could explain it better, but we got the home one with unlimited coverage. We actually hooked up our router to it so we could wirelessly use our printer, two laptops, iPad, and Sonos. It's fast enough for me and better than our Verizon coverage. I'm not sure we've tested it under some heavy downloading situations, but we don't do that too often. I've watched streaming movies from Amazon Prime on it just fine. Not sure about your Netflix standard def question.

I've never felt frustrated with its speed, but out coverage in our neighborhood is pretty good. You can look up the coverage on your particular street here:
posted by LilBit at 8:02 PM on May 22, 2012

Best answer: I have Clear in a suburb outside of Philly, and my experience has been somewhat mixed. We're directly across from the tower, which has helped, and the very few gaps in service that we've noticed have been extremely short-- 10 minutes to an hour or so, once-- in a year and a half. I've done the printer thing with no problem, and my flatmate and I both can both browse/use smartphones without a change. However, downloading anything substantial has always caused serious, serious slowing of the speed, to the point where I couldn't load anything else, at all, if a torrent was being downloaded on someone else's laptop. Netflix works, but with more bumps and pixels than at an apartment with FiOS. It's worth it for me as it's $40 straight a month with zero hassle, and I don't have a Netflix account/torrent, so I'll happily take the limited interruptions. It does, however, drive my partner absolutely bonkers whenever he's over.

It really is fairly regional and it really does depend on whether or not there's a tower nearby. Off the top of my head I've no idea where they're based that's anywhere near Columbia Heights, though admittedly that's changed quite a bit recently. Do you know anyone with the mobile version who could come spot check the service?
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:24 PM on May 22, 2012

I seriously doubt that Clear will be better than any dsl. Do you have any way to convince Comcast that you aren't the same people who stiffed them years ago? That would probably be your best bet.

Clear is the same thing as Sprint "4g" and that's generally slower than AT&T or tmobile's 3G sevice. And they're pretty likely to either shift their spectrum to LTE in the very near future or shut down completely.
posted by The Lamplighter at 11:26 PM on May 22, 2012

Best answer: I've got Clear (Balto.) and am pretty happy with it. The speeds are comparable to an iPad with 3G. It does vary based on things like your building's construction, but you get a week or two to test it out before you're committed. Worth a try.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:38 AM on May 23, 2012

Response by poster: Do you know anyone with the mobile version who could come spot check the service?

Sadly, no. I don't even know anybody with the service itself.

Do you have any way to convince Comcast that you aren't the same people who stiffed them years ago?

This is really a non-starter. I could tell a long story about how terrible my experience with Comcast was when trying to sort this out, but it's neither here nor there. They're not an option.

Clear is the same thing as Sprint "4g" and that's generally slower than AT&T or tmobile's 3G sevice.

The speeds are comparable to an iPad with 3G.

This is what I was afraid of. Granted, the DSL is downright unusable now, but maybe it's worth spending tens more hours with tech support to convince them something's wrong.

However, LilBit and jetlagaddict are making me thing I'm on the right track.
posted by General Malaise at 12:55 PM on May 23, 2012

Best answer: Please, please, read my experience before you sign up with Clear.

I was tired of Comcast and switched to Clear when we moved to a new house in Portland, OR one year ago. My house is close to a tower and always showed good signal strength on the modem. Even so, my speed was slow and service kept dropping out at random times.

Every time I called customer service, I was told the same thing: "Do not worry. Let me look into it for you. It appears that service in your area is down, but do not worry, we will have it working again in 2 to 24 hours."

This happened repeatedly. And when the internet *was* working, it wasn't fast enough to even stream an SD Netflix movie. All I got was three seconds of video, then BUFFERING then three more seconds then BUFFERING. I tried using it with a wired connection, with wireless, on a Wii, on an Xbox, on a PS3, on a Kindle Fire - nothing. It never worked fast enough to watch a show without buffering.

After 8 months, I had finally had enough, so I ran a speed test on my computer. I had been paying $5 extra each month for the "better" speed (that their website says is perfect for movies and video games) but I was appalled to see my speed: 0.3 Mbps. I had been promised speeds "up to" 10 Mbps and that's not even close. So I called them again. "Do not worry. Let me look into it. Yes, I see here that we are limiting your usage because you use too much internet and slow everyone else down."

I explained that I don't use much - I don't play video games online (although I do download games sometimes) and I couldn't use Netflix. I was mainly using email. But they refused to remove the throttling block and kept me locked at 0.3 Mbps.

Since they weren't giving me what they had promised, I called to cancel my account. "Do not worry. I have cancelled your account. I see here that we took out $45 two days ago [the 2nd of the month] for this month's payment so you can continue to use us through the month."

I explained that I didn't want their service and wanted a refund since this was only the 2nd business day of the month and I wouldn't be using them anymore. "I'm sorry, we cannot give you a refund. Thank you." So I called back the next day and spoke to someone else who agreed to give me a refund since I had encountered so many issues.

I thought that was the end, but at the end of the month when I was going through my bank statement I saw that even though they DID refund my $45 on the 6th, they charged me $45 again on the 7th, basically negating the refund. So I called again. This time I was on hold for 40 minutes before they hung up on me. I called again and heard "Do not worry. I will put in a ticket with billing for you. They will call you in a day or two." So I waited a full week and when I hadn't heard anything, I called back yet again. "It says the billing department called and left you a voicemail, but you never called them back." BS. I don't have a home phone, so any call would have been made to my cell. It never happened. "Do not worry - I will have them call you again."

They finally called me and said "I'm sorry, but we will not refund your money. Our employee didn't check the box that said you shouldn't be charged anymore, but you used the internet for the first two days of the month so you have to pay for the whole month." I was livid.

I didn't get my money back until I finally emailed corporate and threatened to take them to small claims court. All over $45.

TL;DR - They throttled my speed, service was spotty, customer service was terrible, and they tried to steal my money.
posted by tacodave at 3:17 PM on May 23, 2012

Response by poster: So, spent the last 3 hours on the phone with Verizon tech support. After back and forth with them not being able to diagnose, and me unable to connect long enough to test, and talking to support guy and other support guy and manager and his manager, finally mentioned that if my service is going to be as bad as it's gotten, I'm going to have to switch, and that Clear is looking good.

They're overnighting me a new modem, and a guy is coming to check the lines from my house to the box tomorrow afternoon.

Also: Good heavens, tacodave. That's a horrendous tale. Good thing Verizon seems to have come to their senses. Why is Internet access—and more importantly the companies that provide it—in this country so terrible?
posted by General Malaise at 3:34 PM on May 23, 2012

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