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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Are the waives receding?

Could it be that the tide is turning, and we won't see such big waives coming from the FCC?

The FCC's latest appeal decision actually denies 31 appeals. I did a quick count, and I found a total of 3 other denials of applicant appeals in the (almost) 2 years since Bishop Perry. According to Spint, the Sprint decision a year ago affected "scores" of applicants, but it was only one appeal. Meanwhile, I think I counted over 1,000 appeals granted. Wow.

Here's my Chicken Little imitation:
This is the first appeal decision of the new administration, so it is a harbinger of things to come. It was Chairman Martin who declared "surf's up" and caused the FCC to waive, waive, waive.

But I'm not really that negative. I think the FCC has waived everything they could, and now they're finally scraping the bottom of the barrel, dealing with the appeals that they just can't find a way to grant.

Also, these appeals were about problems with the 470 and the bidding period, and the FCC can't bend those rules as much. If you make a mistake on any of the other forms, it really doesn't harm the program to let you have a mulligan. With the Form 470, however, it is very easy to make a mistake that will result in restricting competition. (Or that would be true if the Form 470 were actually effective in promoting competition, but don't get me started on that.)

At least some of the denied appeals in this case were things like forgetting to check the box on the 470 that says you want Telecommunications Services. A small oversight, but if you don't check it, no one has an opportunity to bid on your services. The FCC can't give you a do-over because these appeals are years old, so they have to deny those applications.

Really, the FCC was as lenient as it could be on all these appeals. (Well, it could have admitted the truth, that existing state purchasing laws are much more effective at promoting competition than the Form 470, but that would be too much to ask.)

So maybe in two years we'll see this as the decision that turned the tide on the Bishop Perry decision, but I'm betting that it will be the first in a series of decisions where the FCC continues to waive rules wherever it can, and denies appeals when it must.

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