Search This Blog

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Trouble in Iceland?

I was looking at the 3 FCC decisions posted last week, and noticed something disconcerting: the server hosting the decisions is As I have said before, I have an attachment to hraunfoss (and to a lesser extent fjallfoss), so I'm worried that some new URL is going to pop up. As long as they keep the old URLs working, I won't blow a gasket, but if I have to go back and change every link on this blog to an FCC decision, expect harsh words.

Two of the decisions are worth noting, because they're denials. Gone are the heady days after Bishop Perry, when you could get an appeal granted with no justification. And both involved districts complying with state law, but not FCC rules.

Gila Bend is kind of a records-keeping thing: the district could not provide any documentation concerning bids received in response to the Form 470. Moral of the story: if you don't get any bids, make up a memo to the file that says so, and drop it in the file. No matter what, you need to generate some piece of paper that says how you picked your service provider. And then save it for 7 years or so.

Cascade seems like an applicant that didn't know how to put its decisions in the right light. The district admitted several errors:
  1. Cascade started getting service before the 470 was posted.
  2. Cascade put down its own 470, not the 470 under which the state contract was awarded. (And later gave the wrong 470 for the state contract.)
  3. Cascade said it was a month-to-month service, instead of putting the state master contract on the 471.
Let's deal with #3 first, since it is actually the linchpin of the line of argument I think Cascade should have taken. I don't know the situation in Idaho, but in most states, districts can jump on and off the state master contract at any time. So while an underlying contract exists, I would argue that from the district perspective, it is a month-to-month service. If it is a contract, well, I'd say that's a harmless ministerial error.

On to #2: Since we are talking about a month-to-month service, the district was right to post a new 470 and refer to it on the 471. Even if you take the state contract as a contract, the Kalamazoo Reconsideration Order (still my all-time favorite name for an order), which allows consideration of existing contracts as bids, instructs applicants to post a new 470, refer to that 470 on the 471, and for the Contract Award Date, put in the date that the applicant decided that the existing contract was most cost-effective. Which sounds like what Cascade did.

And #1 also vanishes as an issue: there is no problem with treating an existing service as a bid. And until the Sixth Report and Order unfortunately reversed the rule, there was nothing wrong with Cascade having switched service providers in the middle of a funding year.

Since the days are gone when the FCC mercifully granted appeals where applicants made honest mistakes, appellants had better harden their appeals and not admit any mistakes.

And I just have to wonder, if the decision had been posted on hraunfoss (named for an Icelandic waterfall), would it have been friendlier to Cascade?

Friday, May 13, 2011

In your old kit bag

If you're looking for useful information, skip this post. If you're in a snarky mood this Friday afternoon, keep reading.

I was just reading the latest weekly USAC News Brief, and I got to the part that said, " What should I bring with me to the training?" and I thought, "I'll tell you what to bring." My list would include:
  • Rotten tomatoes.
  • The Star Trek Universal Translator. How else will you know that "Costs of the products and services are significantly higher than the costs generally available in the applicant’s marketplace for the same or similar products or services" really means, "More cable drops than we think you need."
  • One of those Mission Impossible rubber masks. When you ask a question, and you're told, "No, that isn't allowed," you'll fall into the trap of saying, "But we've always done it that way." Think about what you just told USAC. You want to be wearing a mask when you say that. And someone else's name tag.
  • A suitcase and a briefcase. Since the answer to most questions is, "That would be decided on a case by case basis," it just seems prudent to have the cases handy.
  • A comb. That way after you tear your hair out, you can do a Donald Trump swoop to cover the problem.
  • I would say caffeine, since some of the sessions tend to drag, but USAC is actually pretty good about keeping the stimulants flowing. [Which is really nice of them, considering that every year I see at least one over-stimulated audience member fly off the handle.]
  • Binoculars. The Renaissance Capital View Hotel is at the airport, across the river and 3 miles from the capital, so you'll need binoculars to view the capital.
  • Index cards. They only give you two, and really, are there only two things about this program that you find incomprehensible?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Caution! Irony may be hot.

I wonder if the FCC was able to deliver this appeal decision with a straight face. Seems the applicant file the 471 on time, but mailed in the certification 8 days late, then filed an appeal to USAC, but that was 22 days late, so they filed an appeal with the FCC. 11 months later, the FCC denied that appeal, and the applicant filed a Request for Review. 7 years later, the FCC decides on the request.

The delay was a good thing, since Bishop Perry arrived in the meantime.

But you know, there is a rule that says the FCC has to decide appeals within 90 days. (Those of us who have been watching appeal decisions long enough remember that the FCC used to grant itself extensions all the time, but it seems that in 2005 they stopped bothering with orders like this one.) So in this case they missed the deadline by about 2,500 days.

(a) The Wireline Competition Bureau shall, within ninety (90) days, take action in response to a request for review of an Administrator decision that is properly before it. The Wireline Competition Bureau may extend the time period for taking action on a request for review of an Administrator decision for a period of up to ninety days. The Commission may also at any time, extend the time period for taking action of a request for review of an Administrator decision pending before the Wireline Competition Bureau.

Oh wait, that's only USAC decisions, and this case was a review of an FCC decision. So that's OK, then. Unless someone with better search capabilities or more spare time than me can find the rule for the FCC considering review of its own decisions....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Train this

USAC has announced the Fall training schedule. As much as I would like to support Newark, I'll be going to DC, as it is the place to see and be seen, and I'm sure we'll have an E-mpa® meeting attached to it.

Today's snark will be a few suggestions for sessions:
The Gift Rule: Yes, that lunch did just cost your district $500,000
The New SPIN Change Rule: Hey, telecom costs were dropping too fast, so we thought we'd make you freeze them for 18 months
CEROA: So many Cost-Effectiveness Reviews are Overturned on Appeal, we made up an acronym for it

Friday, May 06, 2011

Scattered like dry leaves

Could it be back pain from carrying around hundreds of pages of secret rules? Burnout from the processing blitz? Frustration that a rash of applications seem to be bouncing back to Initial Review? The uncertainty of processing applications using procedures that have not yet been approved by the FCC? For whatever reason, it feels like there has been more turnover in PIA reviewers than I've seen for many years.

OK, so even as an E-Rate consultant, the number of PIA reviewers I deal with is probably not a statistically valid sample. And it may be that I am driving them to leave, so it's a localized phenomenon. And it's not like it's a mass exodus; I think I've seen 3 reviewers leave since January. It's just that it seems like more than past years, and given that it only takes a few days to move an app out of Initial Review, it seems like a lot.

The pace of processing does seem faster this year, so I think burnout is the likely cause. Or maybe it's nothing.

And really, it doesn't make any difference. I don't care if the processing of my clients' apps is delayed, since nothing's going to actually get approved until the FCC approves the secret set of procedures for handling applications. For last year, the approval came on May 13th. For 2009, it came on April 2nd. For 2008, it was April 10th.

So I'm just hoping I don't see any more turnover once the FCC makes up its mind on the processing standards.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Jargon creep

Long-time readers know I'm a bit of a language curmudgeon, but I enjoyed a new use of jargon I heard today.

I was just talking to a service provider with multiple SPINs, and rather than saying, "It looks like they used SPIN 1430xxxxx," she said, "It looks like they SPUN 1430xxxxx." [I'm using xxxxx to protect the innocent, of course.] I like it.

I've seen acronyms conjugated before: for example, "COMADed" is pretty common. But in this case, the acronym is spelled the same as an irregular verb, so the past tense is irregular. Splendid!