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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Good news and more good news

Any of you who've been reading right along now that I love to ponder the E-Rate program and imagine how it should be. But man, after a day of meetings with a bunch of E-Rate wonks and some USAC staff, I'm ready for a day of filing 486es (the most mindless, most pointless, and easiest part of the E-Rate process).

Many points of E-Rate arcana were discussed, and I thought the meeting was useful and interesting, but there were two things that really jumped out at me.

First, Mel Blackwell (for those who don't know, the Big Enchilada at SLD and the man responsible for some positive changes there) said that from now on, applicants can include new information in appeals. That's great news. I can't find where the FCC changed this rule, but I don't spend as much time looking at FCC rulings as the folks at USAC do.

Catriona Ayers (the head of PIA) said that from now on, if applicants are going to be denied, PIA will send a letter listing the reasons for denial, and applicants will have 15 days to fix it. It's a dream come true, and the only way that USAC and the FCC could hope to staunch the growing flood of appeals. I don't see where the FCC requires this exact practice in all cases, but it's certainly clear from the series of orders that came out on May 8 (see the list here) that the FCC wanted applications handled this way.

I actually got one of these letters, but I thought it was just an isolated procedure. In the case of the letter I got, though, I found a lack in "specificity," which is mentioned in the May 8th orders.

The net effect? USAC's hands are untied, and they'll be able to give applicants a second and third chance to get it right, which should mean fewer appeals. Eventually.

In the meantime, the application process just gets friendlier and friendlier.

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