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Sunday, June 30, 2013

E-Rate 2.1?

I wasn't at the Washington Educational Technology Policy Summit to hear FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel's speech, but ISTE was nice enough to post the full text of the speech.

In general, I liked it.  She says lots of things I'm glad to hear.  But of course I'm not going to just clap.  Let's skip to the bottom of page 3 and look at the commissioner's five-point plan to reform the E-Rate:
  1. More funding: Yes, of course.  But how?  Sorry, but savings from auditing the Low Income Program aren't going to top a couple hundred million, and the program needs billions, even before the Obam-E-Rate.
  2. Capacity goals: Fine, if you want.  And it's a step in the right direction to have bandwidth goals tied to student population, which it wasn't in the President's speech.  But frankly, I think bandwidth needs will outpace the goals. Seven years ago, 10 Mbps would have seemed unreasonably high for most schools, and now it seems normal.  Now we're talking about 1 Gbps per 1,000 students in 7 years, which doesn't seem unreasonably high, and therefore probably too low.  In the near term, the commish calls for 100 Mbps per 1,000 students by 2015.  It doesn't matter whether she means 7/1/2014-6/30/2015, which schools call the 2015 school year, or 2015-2016, which the E-Rate calls Funding Year 2015, because the PARCC assessment (the Common Core online testing the commish mentioned on page 2) specifies 100 Mbps per 1,000 students by March 2014.  I expect the PARCC process to be put off a year as schools realize the enormity of conducting online testing of every student, but still, PARCC will force 100 Mbps before the E-Rate catches up.
  3. Public-private partnerships:  So the vision is that the heads of major corporations will go to the stockholders and say that the company is going to spend money on technology that will produce a better-educated workforce in 10 years?  Stockholders don't care about 10 years from now; if the executives spend money on anything that doesn't enhance this year's bottom line, the lawsuits start.  And some astute shareholder will point out that the better-educated workforce will also aid the company's competition.  Private companies will develop educational apps and devices if they can make money off it.  Don't call that a partnership.  And if we're talking about diverting E-Rate money into content and end-user devices, then you'd better plan on scrapping all the other USF programs, because we'll need all that money to pay for it.  And then I get really snarky: private schools are, of course, private, so do they have to partner with something public?  Or can they form private-private "partnerships"?  And what about charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run?  Can they just partner with themselves?  This phrase came from the President's speech, but it's meaningless drivel, so can we please just let it go?
  4. Simpler process:  Yes!  Step 1: tell us what the process is.  Step 1a: publish a rule book; all the rules in one place.  Step 1b: publish the secret stuff; most of the rules are secret, and the uncertainty  created by all that secrecy is much more corrosive than the tedium of creating the same damn application from scratch every year.  Consortia?  Sorry, not simpler.  I'd like to see the consortium rules simplified, but there is no way a consortium is ever going to be simpler than single applicant purchases.  And really, the age of the consortium has passed; now it's all about purchasing cooperatives, which are popping up everywhere (doesn't it seem like every ESA in the country is starting one?) and coops are replacing state contracts (think PEPPM, WSCA).  Just let applicants use purchasing cooperatives as part of the bidding process; that way if a larger collective really lowers costs, the school can choose that.  If the unwieldy purchasing process of a collective turns out to raise costs, then they can pick a different alternative.  Wait, what am I saying?  You want to simplify the application process?  Scrap the Form 470 and get the FCC out of the business of regulating the purchasing practices of schools and libraries.  There is enough waste in the time-tested local and state rules, without adding another wasteful layer of half-baked federal rules on top.  And if you want federal regulation of purchasing, shouldn't the GAO handle that?  This is a clear case of federal intrusion into states' rights; how can I get it on the Supreme Court's docket?  What about private schools, you say?  Isn't the private sector supposed to be more efficient that the government?  Let private sector efficiency take care of the purchasing practices of private schools.
  5. Home broadband:  Danger, Will Robinson!  I'm fine with letting kids use their schools' bandwidth after school.  I don't see why we should waste time and money studying it, since it costs nothing, but OK, study away.  The lack of broadband access in homes is a Low Income problem, not an E-Rate problem.  The main threat to this program is mission creep, and we're dealing with quite enough of that without trying to cover homes.  And can we cut it out with the "anchor institutions"?  In the open ocean of rural America, an anchor is only of use to the boat it's attached to.  No telco is going to lay fiber unless there is a dense cluster of customers, and in that case, they're going to lay it from a CO, not a school.  Those stories about kids studying at fast food restaurants don't seem "sobering" to me.  I've done it myself when I'm traveling.  Stop by any Starbucks and look at how many people are using their free Wi-Fi; how many of them are victims of the digital divide?  For me, Wi-Fi in restaurants is a public-private partnership that actually works.  I'd be happier if the free Wi-Fi was in a place that didn't serve Big Macs or Double Chocolaty Chip Frappuccinos, but the lack of healthy food alternatives is a problem way too big for the E-Rate.
Well, that got more critical than I set out to be.  I applaud Commissioner Rosenworcel for adding her suggestions to the conversation.  But sorry, I only see ideas 1 and 4 as important and worth pursuing, and I don't agree with the path she wants to go on those ideas.

As if I haven't been argumentative enough, I just want to point out to those who would put a small "r" in "E-Rate," shouldn't you then also use the spelling "Wi-fi"?  Admit it: "Wi-fi" looks dorky.  Like the "R" in "E-Rate," the "F" in "Wi-Fi" should be capitalized.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Set the I2As Free!

My last blog post has inspired a rant.  (I can hear long-time readers muttering, "What doesn't inspire a rant in this guy?")

I mentioned that the estimates of the cost of President Obama's E-Rate initiative are not entirely based on hard numbers.  Why?  Because no one can say what schools are paying for a 100 Mbps connection to the Internet.  I have those numbers for my clients, but after talking to colleagues about prices in urban TX and rural OK, I know that my clients aren't getting the best prices, but they are far from the worst.

Why don't we have prices?  There is one main reason, which USAC could fix today, and one lesser reason, which would take FCC action to fix.  [Apology to grammar police: since that sentence included two reasons, I suppose it should have started with "There are...," but "There are one main reason..." sounded too weird.]

The main reason: information from the Item 21 Attachments (I2As) is not public.  The information from the Form 471 is public, so I can tell you how much schools are spending on telecommunications, and who they're paying, but I can't tell you what they're getting for their money.  To see Item 21 Attachments, I'm supposed to supply the 471 number and the security code, which is known only to the person who created the 471.  Even service providers can't see the Item 21 Attachments posted by their clients.

The lesser reason: the Item 21 Attachments (I2As) are not well standardized.  The attachments filed online are pretty consistent (much better than, for instance, the Form 470).  Those filed on paper are less standard.  The FCC really needs to tighten up the format for the I2As, so that the right information is corrected in the right format.  And convince everyone to file online.  How?
  • The carrot: Create a "Same as last year" button that would allow applicants to autofill their I2As based on the previous year, then edit as necessary.
  • An even sweeter carrot: Allow applicants to upload I2A data in a spreadsheet.  And download, too.
  • The stick: Establish Minimum Processing Standards for I2As, then wait until after the window to data-enter I2As, so that paper filers who make a mistake are stuck out of window, and lose funding.
A lot of work just to allow a few E-Rate geeks to mine the data to improve our estimates on the cost of Obam-E-Rate?  Making I2As would have other positive effects.  For example, when an FCC decision says, "See Item 21 Attachment," we would actually be able to see it.  An informed public is a good thing.

Publishing the I2As would also increase competition.  Keeping the information secret prevents the free flow of pricing information that is crucial to a competitive marketplace.  If I had to guess why I2As are secret, I'd bet that service providers are fighting against it, because the improved competition would mean lower profit margins.  And the poor Baby Bells still can't kick the monopoly sentiment that competition is simply too plebian.

But here's the math that's really scaring service providers: I2A + LCP.  Ever since some lawsuits and a news article forced USAC to drag Lowest Corresponding Price (LCP) out of the dank cell where it had languished since the start of the program, applicants have been saying, "Well Lowest Corresponding Price sounds great, but how are we supposed to determine if we're getting LCP?"  Well here's the answer: public I2As would allow applicants to determine the Lowest Corresponding Price, At Least Among E-Rate Applicants (LCPALAE-RA).  I2As would put some teeth into LCP.  Not a full set of teeth, but if you've ever watched what a baby can do with just two incisors, you know that a full set of teeth is not required.

The free flow of information.  Increased competition.  Lower prices.  Compliance with the Telecom Act.  For all these reasons, Free the I2As.  Oh, and standardize them, too.


Funds for Learning has released an estimate of what it would cost to reach President Obama's goal for the E-Rate (100 Mbps or 1 Gbps connections to each school, wireless connections inside school buildings).  I was interested to see what number they would come up, so I took a look.  As always, it was informative, but I found two things disappointing:
  1. No graphs.  I have come to expect that FFL reports will enable me to skip the letters and numbers and just look at pictures to get all the info I need.  I actually had to read.  How tedious.
  2. While their report was more fact-based than my wild speculation, the final numbers were not hard.  Harder than my speculation, which was based on estimates multiplied by guesses.  FFL at least is actual numbers multiplied by estimates.
What numbers did FFL come up with?  Well, they came out more pessimistic than I did, and I am not used to having someone be more pessimistic than I am.  They came up with $6.8 billion per year.  I stand by my calculation that an additional 40 cents on your phone bill (a number tossed around by Arne Duncan and unnamed administration sources) will only raise about $2.1 billion.  So we're short $4.7 billion, or about $15 for every man, woman and child in our country.  Per year.

Time for the FCC to hold a bake sale.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wheeler dealings at the Senate

Tom Wheeler, the nominee for FCC Chairman, had a confirmation hearing in the Senate yesterday.  I couldn't find a transcript, so I left the video running while I performed other tasks around the office, hoping that my ears would prick up if I heard "E-Rate" or "Universal Service."  Only two exchanges cut through the fog.

First, Senator Rockefeller asked for a commitment to support the E-Rate.  Mr. Wheeler said, "I've been a supporter of the E-Rate since it first happened, in 1996." The reason he gave:  "When 80% of the E-Rate schools say they're not getting the proper bandwidth for their instructional needs, something needs to be done about that."

Second, Senator Fischer asked Mr. Wheeler a very general question about reforming the funding system for the Universal Service Fund, and he gave an even more general answer.  He did say that the IP transition created challenges, but didn't hint at what he might do about it.

I expected to hear some questions about President Obama's plans to revamp the E-Rate, but if there was any discussion of it, I missed it.

My general impression was that he was pretty knowledgable and at least said all the right things.  My only disappointment is that he did not look much like Michael Keaton or Rutger Hauer, which is what I had expected based on the photo I had seen.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Burying the lead

Well, that's one way to cut down on the number of appeals.  Buried in the last paragraph of a minor appeal decision, the FCC has shortened the timeframe for filing appeals.  Well, not technically "appeals," but everyone still calls them appeals.  I'll dive into an ill-informed attempt to explain what's going on.

But first, a rant.  I complained long ago that it's impossible to learn the rules for this program.  And even if you do know the rules, you'd better read every obscure appeal decision, because you never know when a rule change will be buried in one.  This rule change wasn't even in a paragraph that started, "It is further ordered...."  Only OCD kept me reading this appeal to the end.

[The following text has been corrected after I was contacted by a colleague who actually knows what he's talking about.]  OK, now on to the explanation.  If you ask most people who know something about the program, "How long after a denial do I have to file an appeal?"  You'll get the answer, "60 days."  And that's sort of correct.  But people who spend way too much on this program would respond to the deadline question with a question of their own: "What do you mean by appeal?"  Because this program generates a lot of three kinds of requests for relief, at three different levels of the bureaucracy, and most people call them all "appeals."  I'm going to describe them below, based on my understanding, since I couldn't find any actual definition of any of these terms.
  1. The first is an Appeal to USAC.  You write to USAC explaining why your funding request shouldn't have been denied. The FCC clarified in 2004 that you can introduce new information on appeal to clarify ambiguity, but not to contradict earlier information.  The Second Report & Order says you have 60 days to file this appeal.  You can skip this step if you want, and appeal straight to the FCC.  [Note from the future: the E-Rate Modernization Order changed this; now you have to appeal to USAC before you can appeal to the FCC.]
  2. Next comes a "Request for Review" filed with the Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB). A lot of people call this an "appeal," and even the Second Report & Order seems to call this an "initial appeal to the FCC."  The Second Report & Order says you have 60 days to file this appeal.  This is when either:
    1. you get an FCDL or COMAD or whatever, and you decide to give USAC the breeze and go straight to the FCC asking that the decision be overturned, or
    2. you appeal to USAC, and USAC tells you to pound sand, and you want the FCC to overturn that denial.
  3. Denied again?  If you have new information or arguments, try a "Petition for Reconsideration" with the WCB.  Don't have new information/arguments?  Skip to #4, Application for Review.  
  4. Not happy with your treatment by the WCB?  Take it to the full Commission with an Application for Review.  This is the deadline that just got changed from 60 days to 30 days.
  5. If you can come up with more new information or arguments, you can file a "Petition for Reconsideration" with the full Commission.
Confused yet?  Let me see if I can put it in a table full of useless historical information to make it really confusing.

Appeal type When you use it Who you appeal to Deadline pre-2001 Deadline 2001-2007 Deadline 2007-present Future deadline
Appeal When USAC tells you something unpleasant USAC
30 days 60 days 60 days 60 days
Request for Review After your initial appeal fails (or if you don't want to appeal to USAC) WCB30 days 60 days 60 days 60 days
Petition for Reconsideration After your Request for Review fails, and you have new information WCB 30 days 60 days 30 days 30 days
Application for Review After your Petition for Reconsideration (or your Request for Review) fails, and you have no new information Full Commission 30 days 60 days ? 30 days
Petition for Reconsideration After your Application for Review (or WCB Petition for Reconsideration) fails, and you have new information Full Commission 30 days 30 days 30 days 30 days

So it's just that one little change that's in bold.  It doesn't merit a Seventh Report & Order, but it also shouldn't be paragraph 8 of a minor procedural appeal decision.

And here comes rant number two.  How about the FCC not cut into the time we have to file an appeal until it sets an actual deadline for resolving appeals?  The rules say the FCC must decide appeals within 90 days, but the only one who could enforce that rule is the FCC, and they don't have enough time to respond to appeals, much less punish themselves for not meeting their own deadline.  Recently, Commissioner Pai suggested a solution: triple the time the FCC can take to make decisions.  By itself, a bad solution; why would the FCC enforce a 9-month deadline any better than they enforce a 90-day deadline?  I mean, Commissioner Pai points out that the FCC was sitting on a couple of appeals for over 100 months until Congress pried them loose.

Here's my solution: since appeals are automatically denied if an applicant misses a deadline to file an appeal, appeals should be automatically approved if the FCC misses the deadline to decide an appeal. In exceptional cases, the FCC can give itself an extension, as long as it explains, for each appeal, why it needs an extension.

It's actually a work-saver for the FCC.  And think of the incentive system it sets up for the workers at the FCC.  Let's say you work at the FCC, and an appeal lands on your desk.  What can you do to give yourself the least amount of work?  Let the appeal sit for 90 days; poof! appeal granted.  What would create the most work for you?  Filing repeated 90-day extensions for yourself.  Under my system, we create a powerful incentive for people at the FCC to approve appeals, and if they're going to deny, to do it ASAP.

Maybe someone could slip that rule change into the last paragraph of the next boring appeal decision.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How much to get ConnectED?

Warning: this post contains irresponsible speculation which leads to unpleasant projections.  Read at your own risk.

According to numerous news reports, "administration officials" have said the new ConnectED program might temporarily add "no more than 40 cents" to monthly phone bills.  Let's take a look.

OK, first: 40 cents per what?  The news reports all say 40 cents per bill.  Does that mean if my family is on a single cell phone account, we pay 40 cents, but if we have 3 accounts and get 3 bills, our cost will be $1.20/month?  Will a business with a hundred phone lines also be paying an extra 40 cents/month?  Or do they really mean 40 cents per line?

Since a flat 40 cents/month would require a complete change in the way contributions are calculated, I'll bet what they mean is that they'll increase the USF contribution factor and the result will be a 40 cent increase for a typical consumer.  That would be a very substantial percentage increase.  Like maybe 25%.  We'd be talking about an increase in the contribution factor from 16% to 20%.

And how much does it add up to?  At this point, any calculations would be wild speculation.  So of course you know I'm going to speculate wildly.

Let's start with a "per line" flat fee of 40 cents.  According to the ITU, the U.S. has 145,875,000 landlines and 290,304,000 cell phone subscriptions.  [Am I the only one who's surprised to find that we have twice as many cell phones as landlines, and that we have about 1 cell phone per man, woman and child?]  So that's about 436 million lines.  At 40 cents per month, that would be about $2.1 billion per year.  Dang, that doesn't seem like much.  Maybe they really are talking about 40 cents per line.  [I'm guessing the ITU leaves out VoIP lines, but I'm guessing that's chicken feed.]

What about 40 cents per bill?  Well, now we're moving from rough estimate to pulling numbers out of my of the air, because I have no idea how many phone lines there are on the average bill.  I'd guess the median is probably 1, so let's say that the giant pool of singletons drags the average down to 2 lines/bill.  That means we get about $1 billion/year.

What about a 25% increase in the contribution factor?  That's easy.  The USF disbursed $8.7 billion in 2012, so a 25% increase gets us an extra $2.2 billion.  But that 25% figure was a total guess; I wouldn't be surprised to learn the actual increase would be as little as 15% or as much as 40%.  That would mean somewhere between $1.3 billion and $3.5 billion in additional funding.

How much do we need?  I did some back-of-the-napkin calculations [I have a high-tech napkin that runs Excel].  Under my most optimistic scenario, it will require $733 million/year in E-Rate funding to run 100 Mbps circuits to 99% of the schools in the country, or $1.2 billion to reach 1 Gbps.  But that estimate is unrealistically optimistic, because it assumes that all the schools are within 10 miles of a carrier's existing Metro Ethernet node, and uses a price that's on the low end.  Realistically, I don't see how $2 billion/year to provides E-Rate funding for 1 Gbps to 99% of the schools in the country.  And that's just to have a connection to nothing.  If you have one location, then you need to pay an Internet port charge.  If you have multiple locations, you'd have to get a bigger circuit at your hub site to handle incoming WAN connections, and then get an Internet connection from the hub.

What about putting wireless into buildings?  I have a good data point there: a client with about 1,000 students that will be putting in a forklift upgrade to their wireless infrastructure.  Their cost?  $93,000, or about $93/student.  I expect that average cost/student to be higher nationwide, because: 1) this district is in an area where data network gear is below the national average; 2) the tech director at this school knows his stuff, and is quite parsimonious, so he found a solution that was much cheaper than what the normal tech director could find; and 3) they had a top-notch E-Rate consultant, who minimized the inevitable increase in cost due to the 470 process.  I think $100/student is a very optimistic estimate on the installation cost of a wireless infrastructure. There are about 55 million students in the U.S., so we'll need more than $5.5 billion to install wireless for every student in the country.  That means something like $3.5 billion in E-Rate funding.  If we can spread that out over 3 years, we'd need $1.1 billion/year.  I'm not going to estimate the cost of maintenance.

So my optimistic estimate is that we'll need about $3 billion per year to cover this initiative.  That means increasing the size of the fund by 34%, which means increasing the contribution factor by 34%, which means that a phone bill with a current USF charge of $1.16 would go up $0.40.  And that doesn't address the existing funding shortage.  I hear that we'll pay for some of it with savings from reform, but I don't think those reforms are going to bring in more than a couple hundred million, so we can use those savings to cover rounding errors.

One final observation: the administration is saying that the increase would be temporary.  Let me think, when was the last time a charge was temporarily added to phone bills?  I think that would be the Federal Telecommunications Excise Tax, which comes from a bill passed in 1932* and re-authorized 29 times.  The increased contribution factor, on the other hand, would never have to be re-authorized.  The Russians have a saying for this:  There is nothing as permanent as "temporary."

*For telecom history geeks: I sometimes see claims that the tax came from a bill to pay for the Spanish-American War, but that tax was repealed, as was the telephone excise tax imposed to pay for WWI.  The 1932 tax, passed to cover the revenue lost due to the Depression, stuck.  I guess it was re-authorized to pay for WWII, and by 1945, it had become a habit.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Fair and balanced

As I scanned the news coverage and stakeholder reactions to President Obama's ConnectED speech, I decided to focus in on the most important issue: is the "R" in "E-Rate" capitalized?  I've already noted that the White House and the Washington Post used a capital "R" in "E-Rate," while the NY Times used a small "r."  How are others spelling it in their discussion of the speech?
  • Commissioner Clyburn: E-Rate.  Since she's the acting chairwoman, does that make "E-Rate" the acting official spelling?
  • Commissioner Rosenworcel: E-Rate. Two for two.
  • Congressman Ed Markey: E-Rate.
  • CoSN: E-Rate.  (Egregious understatement alert: Keith Krueger, CoSN CEO, says we can pay for the program by "adding just a few pennies per month to our phone bills."  The administration is saying 40 pennies per month.  Sorry, 40 is more than "a few."  It's more than several fews.)
  • ISTE: E-Rate.  And hurray for ISTE's CEO: "“We would be remiss, though, if we did not call upon the President to go a step further and urge a substantial increase in E-Rate's annual funding cap."
  • eSchoolNews: eRate. I've already complained about this.  Henceforth, this blog will refer to that magazine as "E-School-News" (unless I forget).
  • Education Week: E-rate. (Though they correctly repeated Clyburn's use of "E-Rate" in two quotes from her statement.)
  • Bloomberg: E-rate.  What do you expect from a company that doesn't know the difference between "customer" and "news source"?
  • UPI: E-Rate.
  • Reuters: E-Rate.
  • Christian Science Monitor: E-Rate.  That's right, "E-Rate" is real, and "E-rate" is just an illusion.
  • Wall Street Journal: E-Rate.
  • LA Times: No mention of the E-Rate.  Boo!  And check out the headline: "Obama pledges more Web access to slightly distracted middle-schoolers."  How is a headline not capitalized?  Also, it makes it sound like the discount matrix is no longer going to be based on percentage of students who are low-income, but on the percentage of students who are slightly distracted.
  • The Hill: E-Rate
  • Politico: E-Rate.
  • ABC News: E-Rate.
  • CBS News: E-Rate.
  • NBC News: E-Rate
  • Fox News:  Nothing.  No mention of Obama even being in Mooresville.  The local Mooresville Fox affiliate covered the speech, and used E-Rate.
  • PBS: they spelled it both ways: of four uses in the story, two used "R," two "r."  I understand that news outlets seem to feel that fair and balanced reporting requires that they give both sides of an issue, even if one side is factually wrong, but this is taking it too far.
It looks like the big "R" is gaining steam.

    Steering the discussion

    AT&T responded almost instantly to President Obama's speech about the E-Rate.  At first, it looked like just a reiteration of what the administration is saying, which surprised me, because I thought the administration's position is bad for wireless carriers (and to a lesser extent for CLECs).  So I looked closer and I noticed a few ways that AT&T is trying to steer the program:

    • "ensuring every child has access to robust broadband connections in their school":  Note that "child" and "school" is singular, while "connections" is plural.  ("Their" is also plural, but that's just a bad way to avoid the clumsy "his/her" in referring to the singular "child.")  The administration proposal is pretty clear: fiber to the school, wireless LANs inside the school.  AT&T is trying to insert the idea of each kid having a mobile data plan, so they can sell 500 connections into one school.  In fact, they seem to want each child to have multiple connections.
    • " the USF contribution methodology must be updated": In other words, "Hey, make those ISPs kick a little money into the kitty; we telcos are tired of paying for this whole thing."
    • "the very cumbersome rules surrounding the current e-Rate program simply must be streamlined": Let's start with that pesky no-free-cell-phones-(or-netbooks-or-tablets)-for-free-with-your-cell-phone-plan rule.  And hey, let's dump that no-mobile-Internet-access-from-ineligible-locations rule.  Let AT&T give every kid a "free" device that they can use from home, and have the E-Rate pick up most of the tab for it.
    Nicely crafted, AT&T.

    Thursday, June 06, 2013

    Left unsaid

    He almost said it.  This morning the Washington Post ran an article saying that President Obama would be making a speech this afternoon announcing a new initiative to bring high-speed Internet connections to 99% of schools within five years.  According to the article, Presidential aides said Obama would "call on the Federal Communications Commission to use its existing E-Rate program to meet that goal."  The White House says President Obama "[c]alls on FCC to leverage E-Rate program to have 99 percent of students connected within 5 years."

    (Oh, yeah! Both the White House and the Post spell "E-Rate" with a capital "R"!  OK, so the NY Times uses a small "r," but the Times doesn't have any funnies, so it's not a real newspaper.)

    As it happens, I'm in DC for the Spring E-mpa® meeting, so I found myself in a room full of the only other people in the world who would drop everything to hang on the Prez's every word.  I wanted to get a keg and play "E-Rate Drain," drinking every time the President said "E-Rate."  Good thing we didn't bother, because he never said "E-Rate" (and yes, I am confident the President would have pronounced "E-Rate" with a capital "R").

    This seems like good news for the E-Rate.  The Times article says that "the administration wants to improve the efficiency of the current program, and for telephone customers to pay up to $5 a year extra" per year.  More money is good, but if we're going to fund fiber to every school building and a wireless network inside each school, $5/phone line isn't going to go far.  And of course, I have the niggling worry that mission creep could kill the program.

    My favorite part of the proposal?  It's very clear on how students are to be connected: we're talking about wireless LANs connected to fiber between buildings, not the wasteful purchase of a cell phone data plan for each student.

    A good day for the E-Rate, but I sure would have liked to hear the Prez actually say the word "E-Rate."

    Monday, June 03, 2013

    Spam advice

    Just some quick notes to the service provider that sent a spam with "Critical E-Rate Funding Information" to the contact email address for every applicant that submitted a 470 in 2013:
    1. If you're going to fire off spam, don't count on pictures to deliver your message.  I have my email set not to download images, so I didn't even get a glance at your message as I consigned your emails to the Junk Mail folder.
    2. If you ever intend to bid on one of my clients' 470s, you'll have to use a different email address, because mail from people who send me junk mail goes into my Junk Mail folder.
    3. I used to think you were a service provider worth reaching out to, but now I think your company is distasteful.  I don't make purchasing decisions for my clients, but if anyone asks me for a recommendation, you can rest assured that your company will not be mentioned.