City Broadband Study Isn’t Valid

In order for the results of a survey to be valid the results must be able to be verified by independent sources.

In order for the results of a survey to be valid the results must be able to be verified by independent sources.

Following this obvious train of thought I asked COB Public Works Director Eric Johnston for the completed submission forms from the Magellan Broadband Survey conducted for the COB Broadband Advisory Group, with redactions made to maintain privacy, of course. In all there were about 1,700 results. I wrote about the many problems with the survey here. 

Eric refused to offer access to the complete results stating, “The Consultant will be providing the complete, compiled survey response data to the Broadband Advisory Workgroup after January 31.  I cannot provide you with records that are not in the City’s possession.” He states that the results will be available on a website at a later date, but there are glaring problems with this. Will we get to see all of them? How can we be sure we’ve seen all the results when they’ve all been collected by a private company and kept on their machines? Will we get complete results or just summaries? Do we trust the COB, big telecom, or Magellan enough to believe they wouldn’t stack the deck in their favor? I suspect the answer is no. A private company has them, so we actually have no idea how many came in, how many are being used, how many were thrown out, etc. And we never will.  

Eric contends, “The survey is also available in paper form with hardcopies available at the Bellingham central library or upon request.” As part of my ongoing investigation, I tried on two occasions to get hardcopies at the library and was met with little more than confused looks. They have received only one hard copy and I can tell you why. The poor and homeless were not part of this survey. In fact, the online survey states that unless you’re paying for a connection, you shouldn’t fill out the survey. On top of that a few Broadband Advisory Group members told me about their concerns that the survey has been rigged by industry responders. There is no control to stop this, so this is likely. They were also very concerned because the COB made no real attempt to include the poor, homeless or even renters in the survey. In short, this entire survey is not valid. A waste of $100,000 that could have been spent actually installing physical infrastructure that would have directly helped the community. 

Here is my response to Eric when he gave me the news. 

“So in short, you are are admitting that on top of all of the other problems the survey has as I wrote about here the survey has no validity. Allow me to explain.

1. In order for a study to have validity its results have to be able to be verified by an independent source. By only offering a compilation there is no way to verify the validity of your results. For example, did the pro-big telecom survey company you chose simply throw out results they didn't like? Well by your admissions it can't be verified one way or the other. Meaning that the entire survey is not valid. 

2. How many results came from outside of the city? How many are less than a block from existing COB fiber? Can't' verify that either can we? Neither can you really. No one gets to see the result in their submitted form other than Magellan and they are giving us a summary, not the full results. 

3. Same as #2 but from within the city.

4. You totally dodged the problem with getting surveys at the library which I was not able to on two occasions. The online survey itself states that it is only to be filled out by people that are paying for connections. So you ignored the poor and homeless in this survey. The ones that would benefit the most, for example, from the city utilizing its existing network to offer more public services.

So, you wasted $100,000 that could have been used directly to beef up the existing network, install hundreds of $300 external access points, and more.” 

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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