Friday, April 17, 2009

On the Bleeding Edge: WiMax

Given that we had NetFlix and a Digital TV ready setup, Comcast TV and internet service was getting a bit redundant. It was time to cut costs.

We made the decision to try the new kid in town: Clearwire. Instead of cable, phone, or fiber optic lines, we had the opportunity to be one of two cities in America to sample something called WiMAX, or 4G, wireless internet. Being wacky carefree, schizophrenic Luddites cum Technojunkies, you can guess what phase our vampiric technical mood swing wrought.

In a nod to one of the last local dial-up providers, we chose PCEZ.com to be our Clear.com dealers. For those in our geographic area, I recommend giving these good folks a nod. They provide a good service to many who can't afford broadband and deserve a financial "bump" for their cheerful service. They got all of our information entered and a few days later we received a WiMAX modem.

An aside: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Translated into English, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." WiMAX may seem like a big new idea, but the seeds were sown a long time ago and I was a part of it.

Back in 1998, there was already a microwave internet service in town called WantWeb. They no longer exist, but an extremely talented person I know wrote about them in Computer Bits magazine right here. For the time, their 750k download speed was phenomenal. Unfortunately, the FCC wouldn't allow microwave uploads, so 14.4k through the phone was as fast as you could upload. That pretty much killed them I think.


Hooking it up was quite easy, but there was one problem. By coincidence, the network I hooked into used the same numbering scheme as my own network (192.168.15.x). With a little router fiddling, I fixed it and we were freed from being next to the nearest cable/telephone jack in the house. I could set up communications anywhere I wanted to (so I did).

The speed was excellent right at first. I attributed that to being one of the first people to sign up. Our plan calls for 6M download and 512k upload speeds. Not as fast as our cable company, but I figured it should be fast enough. We hooked up our Vonage phone and our computers for home and work and off we went.

The speed is mostly consistent, but we do get weird slowdowns when watching Hulu or YouTube that we didn't get when we first signed up. Sometimes the person talking to me on the phone will break up even if they are on a landline. We generally can have only one computer watching video at a time which is unfortunate since we were able to do that with Comcast, but it may be more of a sign that we need to get a life than blaming it on Clear. I think signal variations and the same things that affect TV and radio likely affect this connection.

Our monthly price is $55 that breaks into $30 for the service, $10 because I wouldn't sign a 2 year contract, $5 for the Clear modem rental, and $10 for a static IP address for my business work. Not awesome, but not bad. If you get their USB stick, you can take your laptop all over the city and not worry about Internet access. We went with the home plan. Now that the office has moved home, my employer is defraying the cost.

If you get static IP, know these things: If you use a router, you will need the help of Clear tech support to put your router in their DMZ on the WiMAX modem. This allows your port forwarding to work. You will need your router's MAC address handy as well. You should also know that they block port 80, so you can't run a standard web server on a standard port. They don't advertise this anywhere. Their reasoning is idiotic and I think the tech basically made it up. If they were worried about bandwidth violators, they chose the wrong port.

Overall, I think it is a decent deal for those who want freedom of movement, don't mind a small speed hit (though still faster than many DSL plans), and don't want to host a web page. There was an anti-big company factor involved in it for me to. I loves me those independent companies. However, it was all ruined when I found out that Clearwire is owned by ClearChannel. You know, the nice folks that own a bunch of radio stations, censor playlists, and organized the Dixie Chicks CD burnings when they mentioned the obvious about Bush before it became common knowledge...yeah, them. Out of the frying pan and into the fire I guess. We will probably keep it for now and dump them if the sunspots flare up and mess up our signal (the next couple of years will likely show a cyclical increase).

7 comments:

Dave said...

I'm still waiting for fiber optic service to become the norm.

Arkonbey said...

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"

Any Rush fan already knows what that means...

verification word:

Wingly P: The nom de musique of the avian DJ Robbie Redbreast, grandson of the famous Rockin' Robin.

DewKid said...

I'm using Verizon Fios (Fiber optic). It's getting to be the norm down in So. Cal.! I currently get 15 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up. Pretty sweet if you can get it!

Nice Computer Bits article, BTW. That guy sure IS talented! He must eat a lot of greeebs.

Don Snabulus said...

Dave,

My neighbor has FIOS and it is quite quick.

Ark,

I resemble that remark.

DewKid,

I think FIOS is our next thing. The main reason I skipped it this time was the commitment...the employer is not on the firmest footing right now...so I wait.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Blocking port 80 is now apparently standard in Japan. All the broadband providers started doing it a year or two ago, and it was a headache reconfiguring all the e-mail software in all the machines at the school so we could use them again.

Now you are dependent on your ideological foes for your way of life? Sounds like the way half the world works these days.

Fiber optic service is rapidly taking over here, and I'm tempted to check it out (if it even comes to my little box in the sticks).

Why did Dewkid have to go and mention greeebs?!?

Pandabonium said...

I believe I understood what I think you said, but I'm not sure I realize that what I heard is not what you meant.

We have wireless router thingy plugged into a modem thingy that is hooked up to a cable thingy which is also our phone thingy. We are too far out in the boonies for a faster thingy. Whatever.

Don Snabulus said...

MM,

I think the port 80 thing is here to stay in USville too.

Clearchannel is more foolish than a foe. In business, getting political generally winds up biting you in the ass. Pissing off customers ain't smart.

Hopefully your fiber will be as quick as our fiber. Lots of fiber is good for you.

PB,

Surely you know that YRZ modulation in the DQW joint enhances the LPN coherence within the OMIGOSH continuum. Check out my Twitter on this. Help, I'm trapped in an acronym factory!