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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

HATS off

Well, the new outreach effort I described back in October has finally been launched. The initiative is being called HATS (Helping Applicants To Succeed), and will apparently be offered to applicants who repeatedly get Selective Reviews or have trouble getting funded. The visits will be done by BearingPoint, only there will be no compliance review. It's really just supposed to be help.

I think it's a great idea, but I wonder how well it will work. The problem is that I think no one involved in the initiative, from the BearingPoint reviewers to Mel Blackwell himself, has ever actually applied for E-Rate funding. Certainly there is a wealth of expertise there, and they will be able to help applicants, but I can't help feeling that what those applicants need is a good consultant. Not that I'm biased or anything.

I'll be curious to see if the HATS reviewers recommend that applicants use a consultant. Of course, with no registration or certification of consultants, the applicant then has to hope that they pick the right consultant.

What I hope the initiative does is make clear to everyone involved how hard it is to apply the E-Rate rules to reality. I think BearingPoint was able to convey some understanding of the applicant perspective to the SLD (and I hope the FCC) through the Extended Outreach Site Visit program. I hope that since these new reviews don't involve compliance checking and do involve actual application advice, BearingPoint will be able to give an even better picture of how difficult the process is.

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