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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

AT&T and Orphan Annie's dog

What do they have in common? ARF!

The FCC has approved AT&T use of its ARF system. Three things bug me about it.

First, as described in an earlier post, AT&T led a delegation of the big telcos to the FCC arguing that clients don't have the resources to handle the reimbursement process, while the appeal that was just granted claims AT&T doesn't have the resources to handle the reimbursement process. (The ARF system forces the client to do all the work compiling info for a SPI filed by AT&T.) They want to have their cake and eat it, too.

Second, the AT&T appeal says applicants will receive payment in 6-10 days, while their Web site tells applicants to expect payment in 10-20 days. Which is it?

Third, AT&T said the reason it didn't want to offer discounting on bills is that it would cost $3 million. That seems like a lot of money, but the ARF system has costs, too. Let's say it only takes 10 minutes to get through the ARF process; that's pretty conservative, but possible. AT&T says that applicants can do it monthly, so that's 120 minutes (2 hours) per year. I did a quick search, and it looks like AT&T is the service provider on over 5,000 FRNs each year. That would mean applicants spend 10,000 hours each year ARFing. And thousands of checks have to processed by applicants each month. Now a one-time cost of $3 million doesn't seem so high.

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