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Monday, December 19, 2005

Label your equipment

I was just browsing the Extended Outreach Site Visit October 2005 Report (which answers the question, "What do E-Rate consultants do for fun?") and came upon this nugget under the Applicant Outreach section: "Applicants are not aware that they should label their Universal Service funded equipment."

Uh, yeah. Of course applicants are unaware of it; I haven't heard anything about it in any training, and there is no mention of it on the SLD Web site (except in the Site Visit reports). How would we become aware of it?

By the way, if you don't like the look of the new Web site, you can also see the October 2005 Report in the old style.

SLD Web site redesigned

The promised redesign of the SLD Web site has appeared. Of course, I don't like it. I knew where everything was, now I'm hunting around. However, the information that a beginner needs is easier to get to, so I won't complain.

One change I don't like: changing to There are bookmarks to the old address all over the place, many of them in print. And I just don't see a compelling reason for the change. And old pages seem largely to still be there, and do not send users to the new page, if a new one exists. (For example, does not send the user to Now they'll have to edit every old page to make it send users to the new pages.

The Search tool seems to work a lot better. However, the text boxes blend into the header a bit, and when you go to the "Search Tools" page, there is no mention of the Search page or the Advanced Search page.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

FCC OIG report

I just browsed the FCC Office of the Inspector General's semi-annual report. It's not that enlightening, but at least it's short. Two things interested me:

First, the only audits completed were of 3 Catholic schools in the Virgin Islands, and it looks like they're going to get back something like $500,000 total. I have two problems with it.
1) OK, the schools did a bad thing back in the year 2000 (it looks like maybe they tried the old bill-the-SLD-90%-and-never-pay-the-rest scheme), but the each school has between 92 and 250 students, so a fine of $130,000 is likely to be the end of those schools. Meanwhile, the gain to the program is only $500,000 (minus the cost of the audit), if they are able to take it out of the hide of the little schools.
2) Virgin Islands. Hmmm.... Why not investigate a school in, say, Maryland?

The second thing thing that interested me was the list of ongoing audits. A few observations (please note, I just did quick counts, so I could be off on some of the numbers):

106 audits by my count, 101 being done by KPMG.
Here are the top 10 states in population, listed in milliions, along with the number of audits:
StatePopulation (millions)Audits

Meanwhile, South Carolina, with 4 million people, has 5 audits. I don't want to draw any conclusions, since it's not a very complete sample. But I were a district in TX not currently getting audited, I'd count my lucky stars.

I'd like a little more info on each investigation: When was the investigation started? What funding year is under investigation? How much funding is under investigation? What I'd really like to know is why each investigation was started.

The FCC floated the idea of requiring regular audits for the largest applicants, and the large applicants were understandably cool to the idea. But they're already on the list: NYC, LA, New Orleans, Detroit, Boston to name the first that struck my eye. I'm glad to see that they're not only going after small schools on tropical islands.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A use for VPNs

I was reading a magazine for network professionals and I thought of a use for VPN hardware that a lot of schools could use: securing wireless networks (WLANs).

Many wireless networks are secured using a VPN, since it provides more robust security than WEP, WPA and the other 802.11 standards. Security-conscious network administrators make all wireless connections go through a VPN concentrator, which means all devices connecting wirelessly would need VPN client software installed.

The central hardware necessary to create a VPN on your WLAN would be eligible as long as you're only using it within an eligible location. So if you're looking to buy a VPN server, VPN concentrator, wireless gateway, firewall or other security appliance to lock down your wireless network, it should be at least partially eligible for E-Rate funding.