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Monday, April 27, 2009

Flies and Spiders

I thought I was done with my Web hosting rant, but after looking at the April 24 News Brief, I find my bile renewed.

In that news brief, a new concept is introduced: "control" of the Web site. In order to be eligible, the Web site must be "in control." I'm not sure what that means.

And it doesn't really work. No Web host will actually give a client complete control of a server. For one thing, there are probably other clients' sites on that server. Clients have very limited control over the server, unless they lease a dedicated server, which may be ineligible as Off-Premise Priority Two equipment, depending on the terms of the contract.

I think what USAC is getting at with this "control" concept is that they don't want to fund Web hosting which includes Web pages that the applicant cannot edit. That almost works. If you say that only Web pages created by the applicant are eligible, you do make lots of undesirable hosting features ineligible. Online applications like student information systems generally provide Web pages created by the service provider which allow access to client data. Since the applicant cannot edit (does not "control") the Web pages, they are ineligible.

In the case of a value-added Web host, the online editing forms and templates and blog forms, etc., cannot be edited by the applicant, so they are ineligible.

But it won't hold up. Web hosts can give applicants the ability to "control" (edit) those pages. And USAC is going to have to get into the mirky area of where the Web server software (IIS or Apache) ends and the Web hosting begins.

It's as if Web hosting were a dark forest, and every now and then USAC sees a bright spot of rule clarity, but as soon as USAC enters the clearing, it turns dark. But another bright clearing appears in the distance. After years of pursuing those lights, we've lost the trail.

The only trail out I see is to set a price limit on Web hosting.

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