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Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's about time

Remember back in June 2005, the FCC released a broad Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), requesting general comment on the way the Universal Service program was run? Well, a short two years later, we have a Report and Order covering administrative matters, with the promise of a policy order to come.

First beef: Why didn't they call it the Sixth Report and Order? Now we're going to have to call it the "August 2007 Report and Order" or something. OK, the other 3 programs haven't had a Fifth Report and Order, but at least it would have a name.

Much of the document seems to be concerned with bringing the other 3 USF programs in line with regulations already applied to the E-Rate program. But on my first read, I see a few changes for applicants:
  1. Expect some changes in the forms, as USAC will be collecting some new performance measures of the program's success. One interesting measure is that USAC will have to collect information on what technology applicants are using to connect to the Internet.
  2. The FCC declined to adopt processing standards for USAC, but will be measuring processing times. So maybe we'll see standards in a couple of years.
  3. The FCC has mandated that USAC reach out to "a sample of the economically disadvantaged schools and libraries that choose not to participate in the E-rate program. The Administrator should determine why these schools and libraries choose not to participate and assist them, if necessary, in the beginning of theapplication process." HATS on steroids.

The big question is, when will we see the promised policy order? I'm hoping before the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30. On the other hand, if it took them over 2 years to come up with this order, which says almost nothing new, we may be waiting decades for substantive change.

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