We got a chance to see the early-stage maps from ConnectMN last Friday. So far I'm a little confused as to how I, as a policy-maker, can use them. I'm not sure they can be used for anything, but hey I'm not the brightest bulb in the box...
They're not detailed enough -- I checked a few places that I know don't have any high-speed Internet available. The maps show availability in each. Lots of other people have written me with the same finding. My guess is that this is because the maps aren't being drawn with sufficient granularity to show the dead spots.
They're using a low-bar definition of broadband -- They're using the FCC 750k/bps definition. How quaint.
The underlying data is secret -- They've collected all the provider-based information under non-disclosure agreements. Shame on us (the State) for putting up with that. We have no way to verify their results.
They aren't using the speed-test data they've collected, they're relying on Speedtest.net's data instead -- Due to the rumpus Aileen Horwath kicked off a week or so ago, they've thrown out the data they collected and are only using data from SpeedTest.net for their measurements.
Speedtest.net is a biased measurement that favors high-speed users over dialup, which skews the data -- Go ahead, try to go through Speedtest.net's tool from a dial-up connection. I dare you. Speedtest has this cool graphical front-end that works great if you're on a high-speed connection, but takes forever to load if you're on dial-up. I mean, 10-20 minutes. So dialup-users aren't represented in Speedtest's data, a huge "sample bias" that any statistician will tell you is a fatal flaw and completely invalidates any conclusions that are drawn from the data.
"Averages" are misleading -- ConnectMN came in to our meeting all perky about how zippy Minnesota is. "This is the fastest state we've ever measured" they chirped during their presentation. They had already been dinged about this in a prior presentation, so they're going to back the Comcast-dominated Twin Cities area out of the number and try again. They were quizzed about the way they constructed those averages a lot by other task force members during our meeting (I was dialed in over a dreadful connection, so I just listened). I didn't come away with warm and fuzzies after hearing their explanation.
Their staff seem biased against municipal projects -- I don't think the State paid these guys to tell us what to do, they got paid to produce maps. But during their testimony one of their staff folks stoutly announced that "all municipal projects have failed." HUH?? what up with that? I bet there are a bunch of folks in various municipalities around the country who would beg to differ. I don't have a problem with people who have that opinion, but I'm concerned when it's my supposedly-unbiased contracted map-maker who's expressing it.
So like I said, I'm puzzled about what use these maps will be for making policy. So far I'm in the "did we really get what we paid $164,000 for?" camp.