[Note: This article under the same author originally appeared at Washington State Free Press on August 3rd with the same title. The update at the end of the article is with reference to the original publishing date.]
Sadly, even during the pandemic, when thousands of people are trying to telecommute from home, our officials have been slow to really do anything about improving our broadband access in a meaningful way. Most recently, the Washington State Department of Commerce has pretended to “help” by offering a broadband test on their site. However, the site uses a testing tool from Speedtest.net, whose traffic is prioritized by big telecoms and always produces false positives in favor of the big telecoms. Also, it is not a proper network load test, which means the results are virtually worthless. To make matters even worse, the state bases its access speed on the totally inadequate FCC standard of only 25 Mbits down (megabits per second) and 3 up to appease DSL, wireless, and satellite providers who provide overpriced, inadequate service.
Of course, excellent, free, network load testing tools, like Flent for Linux, are available. These tools will show you that the 100 Mbits down and 10 Mbits up speed Comcast claims you are getting for over $100 a month, will perform, at best, at one-sixth of that speed. The speed is even worse during peak times, since Comcast uses shared network hubs. This makes their connections inadequate for most of the work many of us need to do from home during the pandemic. So please ask the Department of Commerce to design a real network load test. It’s not hard, and the tools are available for free.
We have been using Flent to test connections around town. Comcast uses a “speed burst” technology so your speeds always look good at first, and then are throttled way down. This “speed burst” technology is another reason the minute-long test the DoC uses is totally inappropriate. A decent test takes at least 10 minutes. Please notify the Department of Commerce that you are on to their pro big telecom scam, and you don’t appreciate it. We need real solutions, like public fiber to residences. I have spoken to the state about this issue, but they are always careful not to offend the big telecoms, even during a pandemic. Below is the link to their site; please contact the DoC and ask them to design a real load test instead.
Update: 8/6/2020. Bellingham’s Director of Public Works Eric Johnston wrote to a few of us this morning and admitted the bias in the DoC test and its inaccuracy. He then told us he is going to put the test up on the city’s website anyway. In fact, he encouraged us to support him in using this awful test and to spread the word to others about using it. instead, I offered to develop a proper load test. What is the point in knowingly getting a lot of bad data? How can anyone use bad data to make a real plan?
I smell a corporate welfare scheme in the works. I suspect the city and state will use this bad data to justify giving lots of money to companies like Verizon, instead of building real, permanent, scalable, eco-friendly, and cost-effective infrastructure.