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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

August 11, 2010 at 3:10 PM

Wanting a Clearwire iSpot? A little fyi …

A reader in Redmond who bought one of Clearwire’s new iSpot portable hotspots for Apple devices shared some interesting details about the device.

It works well, providing much faster speeds for his iPad than the 3G service from AT&T, he said. The $100 iSpot works with Clear data plans starting at $25 per month.

But he almost ditched the iSpot after going through its activation process. It turns out the Clear service requires users to provide a phone number, which the company can use for marketing.

He was unable to activate the device and start using it until he had opted in to this arrangement. His trick, though, was to give Clear the silenced number of his fax machine.

Others buyers may not realize what they’re agreeing to — or have a dedicated fax line to fob off telemarketers.

A Clearwire spokesman confirmed that the phone number disclosure is required in the activation process.

“A lot of our products are evolutionary,” explained Mike DiGioia, and Clear wants to “make sure customers have a way to be aware” of new offerings.

Clearwire shares customer numbers only with companies “that we work with in order to conduct our normal course of business, it’s not selling our list,” he said. The company may also use the phone numbers for billing and service, he added.

Here’s what the terms of service say: “Regardless of whether this is a wired or wireless number or whether this number is listed on the Do-Not-Call Registry, you consent to being contacted by Clearwire (and/or its designated agents) at this number, for any purpose (including sales, marketing and promotional offers) and by any means (including autodialed or prerecorded voice calls and text messages).”

People who want to opt out may complete a form at Clearwire’s website, after they’ve finished activating the device. The site cautions that junk mail (“marketing information by physical mail”) may take eight to 12 weeks to stop arriving, and e-mail opt-outs will be processed within 10 business days.

The approach is standard with Clear devices, not just the iSpot, and it hasn’t been a problem, DiGioia said.

“That’s the policy that we’ve adopted. We haven’t found a negative response from our customers,” he said.

Except the one who called me. He’s furious.

Maybe this is just the way it’s going to be when you buy telecommunications services that aren’t bound to a phone. But Clearwire’s approach is still a surprising choice for a company that’s been working to improve its customer-service reputation.

Comments | Topics: clear, Clearwire, eula

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