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Sunday, November 28, 2010

FCC smackdown

I just read the Argos Public Library decision, and two things jumped out at me:
  1. It's short. Brusque, even. Usually, these orders start with a one-paragraph summary, then a couple of paragraphs of background (including applicable rules), then a few paragraphs of discussion (which describes the decision and how the rules apply to the cases). Then a paragraph that starts with "ACCORDINGLY, IT IS ORDERED" containing the legal mumbo-jumbo (maybe followed by one or more "IT IS FURTHER ORDERED" paragraphs). This order has only one paragraph of discussion, which is really the meat of any order. Even the footnotes, often the source of interesting peeks into FCC thinking, are meaningless.
  2. It's not applicant-friendly. It only granted 20 appeals, and denied 32. I noted that the days of the FCC waiving everything in sight ended early in 2009. But this order makes it clear that the party is definitely over. Once upon a time, you could file a Form 471 four months late without any good reason, and get a waiver. For this order, the rule of thumb seems to be: we'll forgive a 471 filed within 14 days of the window, or 30 days if some emergency occurred.
Unlike the warm waives of the old Bishop Perry days, this order is like a splash of cold water.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

He's baaaaaack!

What's the number one threat to the E-Rate? Well, it has been mission creep, but after this month's election, E-Rate Enemy #1 is looming.

Rep. Joe "Bleed It Dry" Barton has made no bones about wanting to kill the E-Rate. When the Republicans were voted out of the majority in Congress, his efforts were thwarted. Now the Republicans are back in. Party rules about term limits would normally keep him out of the chairmanship, and the scuttlebutt was that he wouldn't get a waiver of those rules. But he's said all along that he will get the chairmanship, and now he's apparently dishing the dirt on his chief rival for the chairmanship.

This could get ugly.

Diana Ross and the E-Rate

Who knew the E-Rate was heading for the Supreme Court? It's the FCC v. AT&T, coming to the Supremes in January, and really, it has almost nothing to do with the E-Rate. But I think the last time the E-Rate made it to the Supreme Court, they handed down the kludgy CIPA rules for libraries, so I am disquieted.

In a nutshell, the FCC investigated SBC Communications (now part of AT&T) because of some fraud (I'm pretty sure it's this case), and then a competitor filed a FOIA request to get the records of the investigation. The FCC released some of the records, and AT&T said they shouldn't have, because of the FOIA exemption for "personal privacy." The issue before the Supreme Court is whether corporations get "personal privacy."

I'm surprised that the FCC released any info. As I've mentioned before, the FCC won't even release the material collected in a PIA investigation to the applicant that was investigated. So a competitor can get the results of a fraud investigation, but an applicant can't get the results of routine application processing?

Meanwhile, I doubt the competitor who originally requested the records will have any use for them if they're ever released, since they're now six years old.

Anyway, back to the case at hand. I don't think the case will have much effect on applicants, but I'm a little afraid that the Supreme Court will grant personal privacy to corporations, and the FCC will use that decision to reinforce the shroud over the PIA process.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Ubiquitous disappointment

The FCC has released details on the Education Deployed Ubiquitously 2011 (EDU2011) grant program. My biggest complaint: the word "ubiquitously" should have been used more, well, ubiquitously. I mean "Education Deployed Ubiquitously" may be the all-time best name for a federal program (or sub-program or whatever you want to call this), and they have acronymed it away. At least EDU2011 isn't a terrible acronym, although for those of us who can remember when there were only 6 top-level domains, edu means higher ed, not K-12.

What, you thought I was going to say something about the actual program? OK, here are the bullet points:
  • Application deadline: 12/17/10
  • Open only to applicants who had implemented (or had complete plans to implement) before 9/23/10
  • Applications must be 20 pages or less
  • There is no application form
  • File a 471 for the project, with "EDU2011" as the Applicant's Form Identifier

This seems like a lot of extra work for the Wireline Competition Bureau, and if the program is successful, it will mean more demand for Priority One funding. What really worries me is that if off-campus wireless Internet access for kids becomes eligible, we'll see a cottage industry created to meet that niche, and the 90% discount will be too close to free, and we'll have schools paying for a lot of underutilized Internet access.

Or maybe I'm just getting curmudgeonly in my old age.

Friday, November 05, 2010

I say "entity," you say "entity," oh let's call the whole thing off

This week's News Brief brings up one of my pet peeves: the word "entity." I've said before, the program needs to find new terminology. The problem is that "entity number" and "billed entity number" are very different things. The News Brief tries to draw a distinction: an "entity number" is attached to a location, while a "billed entity number" is attached to an organization. But even in the News Brief, it gets muddled. The brief says, "The city or town enters its entity number in Block 1 of all appropriate program forms." Shouldn't that be "billed entity number"? And what do you do if you want to find an entity number? Use the "Billed Entity Number Search tool." What if you're looking for an entity number for a non-billed enity?

We need to strike the word "entity" from the E-Rate lexicon.