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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Which program is "troubled"?

The FCC's Inspector General has released an analysis of audits of the Universal Service Fund. The first thing that jumped out at me was the only statistic in the press release.

"The audits resulted in the following erroneous payments rates: Contributors payments - 5.5%, Low Income - 9.5%; Schools and Libraries - 12.9%; High Cost Fund - 16.6%; and Rural Health Care - 20.6%."

So while the E-Rate has been made the poster child for USF waste, fraud and abuse, it actually has fewer erroneous payments than High Cost or Rural Health Care.

I wish I had some spare time to compare the number of rules involved in each program, because it seems to me that the E-Rate rules are much more complex than any of the other programs; we know that USAC spends a lot more administering it.

I also took a look at the report for the E-Rate. My favorite part: the IG made a list of reasons for non-compliance, and included "Imprecise FCC Rule/s," "Contradictory FCC Rule/s" and "Overly Complex FCC Rules." How many cases of non-compliance were attributed to those reasons? Zero, zero and zero. I think if the IG took a survey of applicants about reasons for non-compliance, imprecise and overly complex rules would be reasons #1 and #2.

The other thing that jumped out at me (and apparently IG, too) was the number of failures due to tech planning. I hope that will make the FCC rethink its rules on tech planning. More on that in my next post.

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