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Monday, July 09, 2007

Too complex - ya think?

So I'm looking at the folder with all my downloads from the Data Request Tool, and I notice that the files for 2007 are about half the size of the files for previous years. At first I thought my autodownload was failing, so I took a look. Everything seemed OK, and then it hit me: there were no comments yet. So a significant portion of the database file is the comments that go in whenever an FRN is modified or denied. With the length of that field growing, probably more than half of the data we download will be descriptions of why applicants aren't getting the funding they applied for.

I don't make too much of that: the FCDL comment field is by far the largest, but it is another indication that the program is too complex. So I did a quick query on 2005 FRNs and it looks like about a third of all FRNs (covering over half of the funding requested) had comments. That seems like a lot of work for PIA.

The application process needs to be simpler. A while back, the FCC was looking for program goals. One goal should be to simplify the program. Here's an objective for that goal: fewer than 10% of applications should require any adjustment by PIA. I figure 10% of applications will require adjustment due to clerical error, but I think most of the adjustments result from applicant confusion.

If the rules were simple enough that applicants could understand them, it would save USAC a lot of money on the contract for PIA review.

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