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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pattern-analyze this

As the BEAR certification notices come in, my first thought is, "Why doesn't this note contain any useful information, like, say, the FRN or SPIN or 471 # or BEN or Applicant Name or anything that would allow me to figure out which invoice we're talking about. Yeah, I know, I can just look up the invoice #, but sometimes I like to glance at a note and tell something about it. At least I can tell which service provider it is by glancing at the email addresses.

My second thought: "Why haven't they taken the 'View Bear Form Status' link off the message yet? Don't they realize it doesn't work?" See, the link in theory takes you to your BEAR, but only if you're already logged into the online BEAR area. And in my case, logged in to the correct client's online BEAR area.

But today's new thought: "Why does the return address end with" SAIC? Then I remembered the big kerfluffle when SAIC was hired to handle some IT upgrades for USAC. Some of SAIC's competitors pointed out that SAIC was a service provider in the E-Rate program, so it would be a conflict of interest for them to have back-end access to USAC's databases. I said at the time that it's much ado about nothing, and I still think so.

But here's the thing. USAC is the company that came up with pattern analysis, where they denied applications because some Forms 470 looked suspiciously like a service provider had helped make them. They also denied funding on some applications because the Form 470 was submitted from an IP address known to be associated with a service provider. (Fortunately, the FCC pointed out that suspicious similarities were insufficient grounds for dismissal, and pattern analysis faded into the background, though I'm sure it still goes on and triggers Selective Reviews, etc.)

You would think that the company that invented pattern analysis would be more careful about giving the appearance that all this mail is being handled by SAIC's email server (which would mean it would be archived at SAIC, and available to...).

I'm still fine with using SAIC handling the back end, and I don't see a real conflict of interest. I'm just saying, if we turned pattern analysis onto these emails....

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