Without Internet access, you might as well be living in the dark.
But unlike the wiring it takes to keep your house powered, the Internet no longer requires wires—even for home service. Clearwire Corp.’s Clear Internet service is a wireless alternative to connect to the Web, which means you are not tethered (literally) to the phone company or the cable provider.
Clear offers 4G wireless plans in Las Vegas that start at $40 for home service. But for $55, you can add mobile Internet coverage (think coffee shop or park). The service is good, but it’s not perfect.
In my tests, conducted in Chicago, my connection was spotty at times and always slower than the cable service I use at home. But when I think about what I pay for cable service—including movie channels and too many sporting programs—I shudder.
Clear offers a number of ways to connect to the Web and I’ve been testing a device called the Rover Puck. Despite the spotty connection, the Puck makes the switch tempting. The Puck (thinner but wider than a hockey puck while weighing about the same) is a portable wireless modem that keeps you connected to Clear’s network. When you are in areas that can connect to Clear’s 4G service, your speeds will be faster. When you’re in 3G range, connection speeds are similar to most modern smartphones.
The Puck creates a Wi-Fi zone no matter where you are, even your car. (It ships with a car-lighter adapter.) You can connect up to eight devices and it comes with a contract-free, pre-paid pricing plan for daily ($5), weekly ($20) or monthly service ($50). A big drawback: the puck costs $150 (Rover.com).
The real market for this product, as well as Clear’s other wireless goodies (it sells a Mac-centric hotspot maker called iSpot), is young adults who consistently move from dorm rooms and apartments. That’s a tech-savvy crowd and one worth courting. But the challenge is to make sure they are happy. As long as Clear can produce decent speeds for its wireless service, it will be an attractive option. In my tests, it was almost there.