Early Clearwire customers in Jacksonville, Florida, like the service's reliability, ease, cost, and portability (reg. req.; click for username/pwd): It's a rave review for Clearwire so far, Craig McCaw's latest venture that has a trial in Jacksonville. Julio Ojeda-Zapata of the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press reports that Clearwire's next expansion in St. Cloud, Minnesota, hasn't materialized beyond a test setup, but that it works as advertised. Clearwire uses broadband wireless technology that's probably a precursor to WiMax.
Ojeda-Zapata interviewed some Floridians about the service, and they weren't just happy about it, but quite ecstatic. One user had access when his cable modem went down during a hurricane. A few discuss how portable the modem is, requiring just an AC outlet in the service area. Clearwire might combine some of the best aspects of DSL/cable (high speeds), 3G cellular (ubiquity), and Ricochet (driverless transferability).
That last is quite important: if I have to install drivers on my computer and reconfigure it for access, thumbs down. If I just plug into an Ethernet port, thumbs up. This was one of the factors that held back smaller-city provider Monet Networks: the lack of this kind of Ethernet-based hookup. And it's one of the driving reasons behind the business model for Junxion, a Seattle company that has a cellular data box with Ethernet and Wi-Fi built in.
Not coincidentally, today's Pioneer Press also includes a first-person article by a reporter who tests Verizon Ev-DO service in Washington, D.C. He finds it as effective as Verizon promises for typical road warrior tasks, but questions how many people need that kind of access everywhere. That flip side of that question is: how many people don't want to worry about having that kind of access everywhere? If you know you could have 200 to 300 Kbps everywhere you went, is it worth paying for ubiquity instead of wondering whether you'll get 50 Kbps to 1.5 Mpbs? The market will answer that question.
The same reporter files another interesting article about how Cargill leveraged its need for Internet access at a grain elevator in Nebraska into free service for itself in exchange for making the tower available to serve local farmers and residents.