Biased BAG Internet Survey

Is the City’s Internet survey designed to protect inferior service?

Is the City’s Internet survey designed to protect inferior service?

[Update 12/23/2021, 7:40pm:  On top of everything outlined below showing that the COB is intentionally using the pro-big telecom company Magellan advisors to create a worthless survey to protect big telecom, we learned recently that the advisors from Magellan were chosen by Public Works Director Eric Johnston personally in closed door secret meetings. To further bias the study in favor of big telecom interests, Eric hand selected pro-big telecom advisors by himself with no input from the BAG. He simply chose them and then informed the BAG of his decision. Sadly, the BAG had an opportunity to use NoaNET, a non-profit internet provider, to conduct the survey instead but chose Magellan even though they have a track record of protecting big telecom. Both the Republican and Democratic party leadership were aware of all of this but have not even tried to make their members aware, most likely to please special interest members and donors. So the games the power elite play with our lives continue at our expense.  A BAG member, who happens to have a WAVE lease for their own small ISP, wrote to me in an attempt to get me to stop writing articles. He, like most of the special interest members of the BAG, is angry that the truth is getting to the public. Sadly, PUD commissioner Grant, Bell and Rob Fix feel the same way. They want me to shut up so they can line pockets without having to answer questions. Sadly, this BAG member it is a voting member. So it looks like WAVE has 2 voting members on the BAG now. Of course, Eric was aware of all of this before choosing members of the BAG. In fact, it's why he chose them. Remember when he tried to keep Commissioner Deshmane off of the BAG even as an ex-officio member because Commissioner Deshmane would actually stick up for us and our needs? Ahhhh, the memories.]


The COB has a long history of writing biased studies to protect special interests. In 2011 the COB ran a TV study on Comcast’s behalf that was designed to make residents pretend that they were pleased with Comcast TV service. The study started out by stating that it refused to look at Comcast as an ISP and then went on from there only to look at TV through the lens of very biased questions. The COB is continuing this tradition with their recent broadband study. 

I have decided to go page by page through the study and analyze the many problems it has, that the BAG is 100% sure it would have and the big telecoms, special interests, and Eric Jonhston are counting on. I have made a backup of each page of the study as the COB is not above modifying documents and hiding them to protect special interests as I’ve written about before in my “adventures in getting pubic records” articles.

Note: This article is intended to be used as a guide while filling out the very biased, pro big-telecom, “interest study” the COB put out available here. 

Page 1:

Notice the language in this page. The opening page assures you that they are conducting a study to look only at “internet availability.” Notice not “internet quality” or “service.” This language allows them to pretend that even if you have awful service, you are technically served, in their eyes, and don’t need a better option, especially a public one like being given access to the existing publicly owned fiber optic network that you pay for during a pandemic.  It also allows them to do nothing about addressing quality issues or setting a reasonable minimum speed standard, which they have not and refuse to. 

The BAG is well aware that in places like Anacortes, WA residents are getting 1,000 Mbits (aka Gigabit) down and up for only $70 a month with a $100 connection fee and that nothing even close to that exists in Bellingham. But they are making sure to use language that keeps them from having to commit to a reasonable standard. Sadly, the Federal FCC standard is still only 25 Mbits down and 3 Mbits up even with the Biden administration appointing a new FCC chairman and there has been no talk of reversing the attacks made on the first amendment and quality of service caused when former FCC chairman Ajit Pai removed net-neutrality. The “internet as a right” standard is Canada is 50 Mbits down and 10 Mbits up. So even the free standard in Canada won’t be guaranteed in Bellingham.   

So the COB has no reasonable standard nor do the BAG, Public Works director Johnston, or big telecom want to set one. Of course, a standard of 100 Mbits symmterrical with less than 30 ms latency was suggested to them, which is 10 times less than South Korea, Chatanooga, Anacortes, and other places with public fiber, but they wouldn’t even set this low standard for Bellingham because they don’t care about us. The entire point of this survey is to lie to you in such a smooth, believable way, that you’ll think our government has your best interests at heart. They don’t as I will continue to elaborate on as I pick this survey apart. 

They are still pretending that they don’t know if service is even acceptable or not even after 2 winters of a pandemic. Again, the wording is, “We need to know about internet access and use by households, businesses and organizations so we can help make sure everyone has the services they need.” Again, look at the language here. There are no specifics. Who gets to decide if you have the services you need? Eric Johnston? Big telecom? This isn’t about feelings like big telecoms wants you to believe. It’s about numbers. Do people have a minimum of 100 Bit symmetrical access with less than 30 ms latency for $40 a month or less with unlimited data consistently or don’t they? Is their service on 99.9% of the time in a year and is it restored within 24 hours if it goes out? Do they have a $70 a month Gigabit option or don’t they? 

None of these standards are stated because the COB and BAG, on behalf of big telecom, still want to pretend that this is a personal choice when they are well aware that virtual monopolies exist all over the city and that we pay the highest cost per Mbit in the developed world for low quality broadband. 

Also, they only want you to complete the survey if you pay for internet services. If you are, say homeless and use it in a public location they don’t want to hear from you as highlighted by this statement, “Please complete this survey if you choose and/or pay for services for your home or work location. “ It should end with, otherwise go fuck yourself.

Page 2

Question 1

Starts with a lie.We need to know the type of location because households and organizations get different services and have different issues.”

The truth is that in most parts of town there are virtual monopolies on services if you look at them by quality as the RRUL network load testing I use actually does. I wrote about it most recently here, so there is no real difference between a Comcast “Business” subscription or “regular” one it’s all based on the same outdated tech. 

Question 2

Is also a lie. Your selections are not based on speed and performance. The option of high speed vs. low speed here does not include low speed DSL services that are literally so obsolete even the CEO of AT&T admitted to it recently. So, the COB is stacking the deck in favor of big telecom. They are saying that if you have a virtually worthless obsolete DSL service you should still select high speed here simply because it’s always on. So even if it doesn’t really work, they force you into pretending that it’s high-speed. 

Question 3

Did not show up for me.

Question 4

Is actually appropriate. However an explanation of using a wired connection if possible for the most accurate results should have been put here. 

Question 5

Uses the same, very inaccurate speedtester I wrote about previously to provide biased, skewed results in favor of big telecom. Of course, we worked up and provided the COB, County, Port and PUD with an RRUL network load tester proposal including inexpensive on-site testing which they ignored. This step will definitely create confirmation bias as people sophisticated enough, with enough interest, to take the test will. Others will not. This is why I provided the COB and others with a more accurate RRUL network load test proposal. I did this to make sure we were getting accurate numbers for people who are unlikely to test like seniors living in retirement communities, the homeless and more. But the BAG, COB and big telecom don’t care about that as stated on page 1. 

Accurate testing is the biggest fear that big telecoms have. All of my RRUL network load tests show the the same thing. That none of the connections hold up to testing except fiber when performed for more than 1 minute, and fiber in Bellingham and Whatcom County, if you can get it at all costs $900 a month with at least a $25,000 hook up fee. Other serives like CenturyLink’s services are NOT real fiber services, but garbage hy-brid services that are nothing like real fiber. Compare that to $70 with a $100 hook up fee in Anacortes. The telecoms know there is no comparison, and that RRUL shows that, so they made sure that no one would be funded if they were performing RRUL testing. 

My connection tests at about 65 Mbits down and 11 up with the COBs survey tester. Which runs for about 40 seconds.

RRUL (The accurate tester): Shows the real speed of 25 Mbits down and 4 up when run for 4 minutes. The real speed of the connection shows up after about 60 seconds. Interesting that the COBs tester only runs for 40 seconds isn’t it?  

Time of day effects this test a lot too as Comcast speeds are summed by neighborhood and you share your bandwidth by neighborhood. 

Question 6

Just asks what company you use.

Question 7

Asks what speed you’re supposed to be getting. Of course, the question does not account for “speed-burst” the tech that makes cable connection like Comcast almost fast for a few seconds, producing erroneous results on bad speedtesters that don’t run for long enough like the one in question 5, and then throttles down to a much slower speed shortly after that.

Question 8

Self-explanatory. Just the number of devices.

Question 9

This one is actually pretty well put together. Still, it will suffer heavily from confirmation bias as a tech savvy user is more likely to notice these things and respond to these questions. Which is why we need the on-site RRUL testing I described above. 

Question 10

This one is straight forward. It just asks what services you pay for. 

Question 11

How much do you pay for broadband? Keep in mind that Gigabit fiber to the premises is $70 a month in Anacortes and $24 a month in South Korea, etc. So we all pay too much in Bellingham/ Whatcom County. 

Question 12

Same as 11 but for all services.

Question 13

You should not pay more than $70 a month for Gigabit fiber to the premises. This question is total garbage. The standards they use aren’t even accurate as none of the big telecom connections hold up to testing. A 25/3 connection from Comcast, CenturyLink, etc. will throttle down to ¼ of it’s speed after 1 minute with RRUL network load testing, which again simulates actual network use. So this question is worthless and a trap to protect big telecom. All of the statements here were literally presented to me by a Comcast phone technician once when, even though I knew my connection wasn’t good enough, they just kept reading their script to me anyway.  

Question 14

Will again suffer from a lot of bias, but at least it’s not written poorly. 

Question 15

Just a type of services question.

Question 16

Just a how many sites do you operate question.

Question 17

HQ or not.

Question 18

How many people do you employ?

Question 19

How important is digital tech to your daily activities? This is obviously largely subjective. 

Question 20

When compared to places with public fiber to the premises all internet services in Bellingham/Whatcom County are awful. Sadly, there is no selection for that here. Do your best. 

Question 21

Asks if you would move to get better internet services. This is a poorly designed question. Since Bellingham/ Whatcom County have terrible internet services we have missed out on attracting the next generation STEM businesses and organizations areas with Public Fiber enjoy. Hence, most of the people answering this question don’t have good next-generation jobs with high pay because you simply can’t do that here. 

Question 22

Is an open form question where you can state your opinion. Here is my response to question 22.

We need public fiber to the premises. 

You need to establish a real Dig Once policy, like the one Jon Humphrey already provided to you, and stop pretending like the fake "Conduit Ordinance" that Lilliquist and Johnston wrote to protect big telecom suffices. You wrote that so you can lie to citizens. That policy doesn't even talk about installing conduit in any meaningful, or specific, way. A real Dig Once policy reduces the cost of putting fiber in by 90% and is also good for the environment as it prevents unnecessary excavation.

Fiber is also good for the environment as it reduces trips, is the most ecologically produced material, lasts the longest, uses the least amount of energy to work, has virtually unlimited bandwidth, is "future-proof" and is needed for all other internet tech to work well. It is also 100% safe to use.

The COB has an existing fiber network that local net-neutral providers could start using immediately, and could have throughout the entire pandemic, if you open-accessed it. So, you need to do that. Local net-neutral providers like PogoZone already provide many fiber connection on the Mount Vernon Open-Access network. Mount Vernon has 9 local, net-neutral, providers many of which would be interested in operating in Bellingham. 

The idea that this is somehow hard for the city to do is ludicrous. The city already employs many staff members who are paid well, with excellent benefits, to manage the existing network. You don't need more staff, you need to get to work. 

In an Open Access network, the COB just manages leases. The providers take care of everything else from maintenance to customer service. The leasing means that the network pays for itself and its own expansion. 

Fiber will attract next-generation businesses allowing us to meet virtually all of our social and economic responsibilities too like creating better STEM jobs for women and other marginalized members of our community along with every other member of the community too.

You need to fire Eric Johnston who has always abused his position to protect big telecom.

You need to remove the voting member from WAVE, Milissa Miller, from the BAG along with other pro-big telecom interests from the BAG. The BAG was supposed to be a citizen's group.   

You need to conduct real, accurate, broadband testing using on-site testing and tools like RRUL network load testing. This is NOT expensive to do. 

Question 23

Your personal information.

Question 24

How you would like to be contacted. 

Closing Page

The closing page thanks you for taking the survey and tells you that your opinion is important to the COB. It is not. If it was we would have had access to our existing public fiber network during a pandemic. 

A few months ago BAG members attacked me with pretend outrage when I linked them, using documentation like their resumes to the BAG, to big telecom interests. However, actions speak louder than words, and it’s pretty obvious after this fake study that I was pretty much right on the mark. We also see exactly why Eric and big telecom really made sure I wasn’t on the committee and never got to talk to them about broadband, especially testing. What they’re learning is that they can’t cancel me because, “you can’t cancel the truth.” 

So in the meantime, instead of trying to cancel people like me that are looking out for the community as a whole, perhaps our government should try doing something that actually improves the lives of its citizens for a change. 

Remember though, nothing we have to say here really matters. The BAG was intentionally setup by special interests as an “advisory group” and the COB can, and probably plans on, ignoring most of our opinions anyway. Still, please do fill out the survey and may I suggest using the open format questions to demand Open Access, Dig Once, and the replacement of Eric Johnston. 

About Jon Humphrey

Citizen Journalist • Bellingham • Member since May 23, 2017

Jon Humphrey is currently a music educator in Bellingham and very active in the community. He also has decades of professional IT experience including everything from support to development. He [...]

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