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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wide of the Markey

Representative Ed Markey, now chairman of the committee overseeing the E-Rate program in the House, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin on April 2nd. Most of the concern seems to be about the High Cost program, which is ballooning, but there are some questions about the E-Rate at the end.

Since blogs are all about self-agrandizement, I think I'll post my answers to the questions:

1) Should Universal Service be exempt from ADA? Yes.

2) Have recent appeal decisions gone too far? How can we clarify the rules? Well, if recent appeal decisions actually granted funding, I would say that some have gone a bit too far, but since they're just waiving a rule here or there and kicking the decision back to the SLD. I would like to see clarification of the rules, but that has nothing to do with the appeals. The first step in clarifying the rules should be created a single book that contains all the rules.

3) Should the poorest districts continue to get highest subsidies? Free telecommunications? Extra subsidies for high-bandwidth services? Yes, no, no. I support the graduated funding that the E-Rate currently uses, though I think the top discount for Priority 2 funding should be 70%. But free services are a bad idea. I haven't seen any fraud or abuse by applicants in telecom or Internet access. But when it comes to waste, it's all shades of gray: what is the line between a top-notch network and gold-plated network? Low income students should have access to top-notch networks, but not gold-plated. If services are given away for free, then I think the FCC is going to have to get into setting bright-line standards for networks. I prefer the current system.

4) Do you support lifting the $2.25 billion/year cap? No. Well, actually, what I'd like to see is a cap on Priority 2 equipment of maybe $1 billion, and then let telecommunications and Internet access be as large as need be. I guess you'd have to cap Basic Maintenance, too. That way USAC would know how much funding is available for Prio 2 before any applications are filed, and we could get Priority 2 funding flowing that much quicker.

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