Clear as Mud. Portland’s New Mobile Internet

As a student studying advertising I probably take note of advertisement more than the typical observer. While on my way to work a couple of weeks ago I noticed a peculiar billboard that looked like the one below.


The visibility was approximately the same for the bottom text. About 3 minutes up the road there was another billboard that said the same thing. Two days later across town, the same billboard.

They had me. I was curious. I wanted to know what the heck that billboard stood for, but unless I wanted to hurl myself up onto the physical billboard to see the bottom text I was left to wonder if France was invading the US or not.

Finally a week ago I drove past the same billboard’s on the way to work and my call for action had been answered. The billboard below appeared and suddenly the ad campaign was starting to make some sense.


I had a source! Working in the Internet marketing field my interest increased, but not enough for me visit the website.

A few days after the billboard sighting I found myself with a 20 minute break from class. I decided to wonder Portland State’s campus and thus the stars aligned. my path led me to the front of the campus where a booth was setup for Clear. I decided to find out first and foremost what the heck this product was, number two if this saleswomen knew her product, and number three any information that allow me to leverage their mobile Internet using my personal Internet marketing efforts.

Clear is a WiMAX service provider that released its product to Portland, Oregon on January 6th 2009. WiMax is considered a 4G quality connection that reaches miles not feet like WiFi. The sales representative stated that unlike Comcast or Verizon’s Internet service, which varies in speeds, Clear has a more consistent speed with a max of 4 MBps. She also claimed that when Clear sees a saturation of users, which will slow connection speed, Clear will push more juice to these particular areas to help sustain the speed. The WiMAX will be sustained by using the cell phone coverage towers. The saleswomen stated that by they will have the same coverage of cell phones allowing their WiMAX connection to be accessed beyond the cellphones connection range because of the increased connection reach. Another bold claim was the fact this service cannot be hacked. I repeat, cannot be hacked. The last bit of information I was passed along was Clear looked at what Japan did, a leader in WiFi access, and is replicating the technology to allow the entire city of Portland to be a WiMAX hot spot giving you the ability to have mobile access even on the highway!

I’ll try to go easy on this poor saleswomen.

I think it’s great there are companies out there that recognize the lack of Internet speed consistency, but these claims of “magically” adding additional juice sounds a little like black magic. If it was as simple as pushing more juice or pulling feeds from a hub that’s not being used why wouldn’t the current Internet service providers do that? Internet service providers have already tried using different frequencies to enhance Internet speed. First there was phone lines, then cable, then DSL, then FIOS and so on. The more people that upgrade or use a particular Internet service source the slower it’s going to be. I believe the initial tests for Clear will come back stating their speed IS faster than any other provider. Why? Because the overwhelming majority of Internet users will not use their service to access the Internet. The results will then spur on additional cities and eventually, while it will be faster than our current system, speeds and connectivity will be as erratic as ever.

I would also like to state I am not a mobile Internet user. Like car headset TV’s I believe surfing can be withheld for the 15 minutes it takes for me to get home to use the service. I do recognize the usefulness of the service and the fact businessmen and women will find more benefits to mobile Internet than me.

The next notion and potentially the most asinine was the statement, “The only way our system can be hacked is if the creators or administrators gave out the necessary information.” As an avid reader of Sydkn8 I can tell you there are people out there that will find a way to hack Clear and Clear will probably never know about it. In fact I believe this statement will only fuel hackers on just to show it can be done. Never underestimate the evolution of a Black Hat. Never.

While the concepts are great in theory and their ad campaign is off to a roaring start I have trouble believing Clear, Clear is the WiMAX service brand for Clearwire, will be able to sustain long term. Portland, Oregon is a sustainable, organic, green thriving city, but we’re not idiots either. When the dust settles and the billboards are down we’ll see how Clear the results are.

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