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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Better late. Even better never.

The Department of Education filed a comment yesterday on the NPRM for off-campus wireless. Thank God they filed it two and a half months after the comment deadline, only two days before the Commission is set to vote on it, and after Chairman Genachowski has announced what they'll be voting on. Because this way, there is no way that the FCC can consider their heinous suggestion.

Their comment is all about Internet access for mobile devices. No surprise, they come out in favor, and they actually give a couple of good examples to support their position. I'm at peace with off-campus wireless, as long as E-rate's not paying for the devices. What I find heinous is the suggestion that the DoE put forth for keeping the cost of wireless access from overwhelming the fund: set up a pool of money that would be awarded as competitive grants.

First, the separate pool is terrible. Pretty soon every little industry will want a separate pool, and the balkanized fund will be much less efficient and easier for politicians to target.

But the idea that makes my blood run cold is making part of the E-rate a competitive grant. Of course it would mean more districts driven into the arms of an E-rate consultant, which is good for my bottom line, but it would be:
  1. Terrible for districts, who would have to plan wireless initiatives with funding that's completely up in the air. Since the E-rate doesn't make multi-year awards, would they compete every year? What if they lost in year two?
  2. Terrible for PIA, which would have to start reviewing competitive grants. Administrative costs would soar.
  3. Terrible for the program, setting a precedent which could eventually cause the program to buckle in on itself.
  4. Terrible for the FCC and their goal of streamlining the program.
  5. Terrible for NJ, where we're still a little shell-shocked over losing $400 million in a competitive grant because someone included the 2009-2010 budget in the grant proposal instead of the 2008-2009 budget.

Thank God it comes too late for the FCC to even consider it.

1 comment:

  1. Uh oh. I just heard Chairman Genachowki's comments, and he said that the off-campus wireless pilot program would be "competitive."

    So much for streamlining and simplifying.