UPDATED: RFC: Broadband in Portland

April 8th, 2009  |  Published in etc  |  8 Comments

Update: In the first draft of this entry I mentioned Clear’s return policy. At the time I contacted Clear, I was told they ordinarily have a 7 day return policy but that Oregon law requires them to extend that to 30 days for Oregon residents. In the comments below, a reader pointed out that in his/her case, Clear is not honoring a 30 day return period for Oregon residents. If you go with Clear, you have 7 days to return the gear or you have to buy it.


I’ve been a Speakeasy DSL customer for a while. I’m not sure when I opened my account, but it’s likely I started using its service in 2002 or 2003 (update: 2003), and I switched to VoIP with Speakeasy a few years ago.

I liked Speakeasy because it had a hands-off attitude about my use of the service (running servers is fine … no threats of usage caps), decent technical support and competent sales staff. We’ve moved twice since I first started with Speakeasy, and I had no reason to think things should be any different with our upcoming move.

I’ve had a pretty rotten experience this time around, though:

First, the sales staff pre-qualified our new address for a speed that’s wildly improbable for our distance from the CO. I ordered a 6 meg line and the installer found that hilarious, telling me I’d be able to keep getting the 3 meg connection I currently have, though he also predicted problems that might require me to drop from 768 up to 384 up. I might have had an idea this was coming, but the sales staff misreported our distance from the CO by a few thousand feet in the process of upselling me.

Second, the sales staff sold me the move transition as an uninterrupted change from one location to another, with billing beginning on the new address as soon as I moved and asked for the old address to be shut down. But in a conversation with the install coordinator this morning, I was informed that I’d be billed in parallel for two accounts until I asked for the current location to be shut down. That amounts to a tidy $65 profit on a completely unused line, along with a $99 installation fee. I complained about that and the coordinator agreed to credit my account at some later date. First time in three moves they’ve tried to pull that.

I was also told that if I wanted a real 3 meg connection, which I currently have, I’d need to keep paying for the 6 meg connection because probably I could only expect 2.5 meg speeds on a 3 meg connection at the new address. Don’t ask me what they were talking about, I only edit a site about networking … I pay the writers to work out the weird math.

So I’m pretty sure I’m done with Speakeasy, and I’m inclined to think I’m done with DSL in general: it sounds like any DSL service we get to the new location isn’t going to be any better than what we’ve got now and might be worse. That leaves me thinking it’s time to break voice back out from data and consider my other choices:

  • Comcast cable currently leads the pack. I know the speeds can be lower than advertised, but I haven’t read anyone complaining they ever go below our current target speed (3 meg). Comcast is a bit on the pricey side, but if we can pull down even a quarter of the advertised 30 meg speed, I’ll be happy. On the downside, Comcast has monthly caps and I’ve got no clear sense of our household bandwidth consumption on a monthly basis. The Roku can be a greedy little pig, though, and we don’t watch much television except via Hulu.

  • Clear, the new WiMax provider in town, offers 6 meg in-house connections that differ in cost between franchisees but seem to run between $40 and $55/month, with setup fees running from $0 to $35. The Oregonian gave it a mixed review, but it sounds like, with a 307 day return policy, there’d be little risk if it turned out we lived in an area with poor coverage. My main issue with Clear is its newness. I’m not sure I want to revisit this question in a year.

FIOS isn’t an option for our location. Pity. That seems to be the price/speed combination to beat. Qwest’s fiber offering is also still unavailable in our new neighborhood. There’s also a protest move to Qwest DSL, which would make it easier to get a traditional voice line and spare what will be an already overtasked connection to the distant CO.

The good thing is, I’ve got a few days to play with if I do switch services.

Any options I’m missing?

Oh … p.s. I guess I saw this coming.


  1. Michael Patrick Burton says:

    April 8th, 2009 at 12:17 pm (#)

    Dude. Suxors.

    Well, honestly I’ve been pretty happy with my Qwest/MSN combination. The speed is reasonable (4.7m out of 6m down and 572k out of 1024k up)and once I switched over about six months ago, I haven’t had a single service interruption. I mean, you’re giving your money to The Man, and if something did ‘splode – I’d be talking to a robot for 30 minutes.

    Qwest/Easystreet was OK – stellar service, though Qwest dropped the ball on provisioning probably six times over a two year period causing up to 24hr outages.

    Clear… man. You’d never have to worry about moving in Portland, right? It’s just wireless. And you could “commute” from the park across the street with no issues, but I haven’t read anything about the service or support.

  2. Forward to the WiMax Future :: dot unplanned says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 10:16 am (#)

    […] Update to yesterday’s post on Speakeasy, etc.: […]

  3. eleventyurple says:

    April 9th, 2009 at 4:31 pm (#)

    Honestly, the word is that most cable providers are toying with the idea of OR already implementing bandwidth caps. In spite of the less than stellar recent Speakeasy customer service issues, I have yet to hear Comcast-level stories of hell on earth regarding Speakeasy.

    Best of luck, but my suggestion would be to go with another DSL provider, rather than giving your virtual nod of approval of metered bandwidth to a giant like Comcast. Ever hear of Dsl Extreme?

  4. strangeways says:

    July 7th, 2009 at 6:43 pm (#)

    Hi, where did you hear about Clear’s 30 day return policy? I had heard 30 days before as well, but now that I’m trying to cancel my Clear service (due to poor signal strength and connection speeds in my inner SE Portland apartment), they are telling me I actually only had 7 days to cancel and return my purchased equipment to actually receive a refund. I can’t even find any mention about their trial period or cancellation and return policies on their website. It’s a bit frustrating! Any information you have about it would be greatly appreciated.

    Unfortunately, FIOS is not available at my location, either. So I guess I’ll be sticking with Comcast…

  5. mph says:

    July 7th, 2009 at 7:13 pm (#)

    Hi, where did you hear about Clear’s 30 day return policy?

    The representative told me about it over the phone when I signed up. What he actually said was that Clear has a seven day policy, but that Oregon residents are entitled to 30 days by state law and so that was the company policy for Oregon customers.

    I had an interesting run-in with Speakeasy after I canceled my new connection after not using it, but not being allowed (thanks to a Speakeasy technical snafu) to disconnect it until the 27th day of the installation. Speakeasy tried to hook me for about $275 in cancellation charges citing a 25 day return policy. I argued and they mysteriously backed off after saying nothing for two weeks and after two levels of staff told me I wouldn’t be able to get out of the charges.

    Maybe that was Oregon law helping out, maybe not, but if I were you I’d start hitting Google to see if you’ve got an out that way. If nothing else, try to escalate with the Clear representative and point out that other customers have been told it’s 30 in Oregon.

  6. strangeways says:

    July 7th, 2009 at 11:54 pm (#)

    Thank you for that information. I was told the same thing by the Clear representative when I first signed up, but I was beginning to think I had imagined it! The representative who was handling my cancellation request today kept saying that she’s never heard of a 30 day policy, so I asked to speak to a supervisor, who should be giving me a call back tomorrow.

  7. strangeways says:

    July 16th, 2009 at 12:15 pm (#)

    I just wanted to give an update about my situation in case it is helpful to you or others who find this page. The supervisor called me back and although she was friendly, she still would not refund my money. She wasn’t aware of an Oregon law requiring 30 days, and I wasn’t able to find it when I searched for it. She did say that Clear had a temporary promotion going until April for a 30-day trial period (which matches up with the date of your original post), but that was because they had just launched their service in Portland and that now it was back to the 7-day period that they have elsewhere.

    Oddly, she claimed that if Oregon had a law like that, it wouldn’t apply to Clear because they are based in the state of Washington. I didn’t see how that could possibly be true (if you are doing business somewhere, you need to comply with the local laws), but I didn’t press the issue because I didn’t have anything in writing regarding a 30-day trial period. I got her contact information, however, in case I do find any documentation or information in my favor.

    Unfortunately I had decided to purchase the modem, so now I’ll need to sell it or hope that I eventually move somewhere with better reception. I had signed up for the monthly plan, so at least I managed to avoid the early termination fee.

    My total cost was $80 (purchased modem) + $40 (monthly service) + $35 (activation fee for month-to-month plans)

    Anyway, thank you for your post and the information in your comment. I do know people who are happy with their Clear service, but both as a web developer who needs reliable broadband service and as a consumer of online video (primarily Netflix and Hulu), Comcast has worked out much better for me.

    Best wishes, strangeways

  8. mph says:

    July 16th, 2009 at 12:33 pm (#)

    _I just wanted to give an update about my situation in case it is helpful to you or others who find this page. _

    Wow. I’m really sorry you got caught like that. The supervisor’s reasoning sounds specious to me, too.

    I’m going to update the text of this entry so people don’t make a decision based on outdated information.

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