Search This Blog

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blog Hygiene

No E-Rate content in this post.

I just wanted to let you know that I've made a housekeeping change in this blog. When I'm reading something on the Web and come to a hyperlink, I almost always want the link to open in a new tab on my browser, so I can keep reading and look at the hyperlink later. And I write my blog assuming that readers are doing the same thing.

So I've finally figured out how to make my blog automatically open a new tab when you click on a link. Don't be alarmed when you click on a link and a new tab opens up. Click here to see how links work now. As an added bonus, when you click you'll get to see the Web site of the greatest E-Rate consulting firm on Earth. (And I don't want to hear any whining from other E-Rate consulting firms that think they're the greatest; my Mom says On-Tech is the best, and you'd better not disagree with my Mom.)

I wish I could make the new tab open behind the current window, to avoid interrupting the flow of my splendid prose, but that is beyond my poor HTML skills.

I've read that people hate sites that pop open new tabs, but that's just too bad. I like it, and since this blog exists to amuse me, new tabs it is.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Is Joe Barton Megamind?

Just yesterday as I drove along listening to the jibber-jabber about our government hurtling towards default, and what it would mean, I breathed a sigh of relief that the Universal Service Fund is not part of the budget. So I think even a complete government shutdown wouldn't stop the E-Rate. At least not for a while.

I've described before the plot to kill the E-Rate by bringing it into the US budget, then bleeding it dry. That plan died when the Republicans lost control of the government. Well, they're back. At first it looked like they would join the movement to expand the E-Rate, which I'm afraid may be the E-Rate's undoing. But I was feeling quite safe.

Then this morning I read this: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has floated the idea of taking $1 billion from the USF to help pay down the debt. But wait, other Republicans are riding to the USF's defense, led by Rep. Joe Barton. Could you hear my jaw dropping? I've been dissing Joe "Bleed It Dry" Barton ever since he said that he wanted to kill the E-Rate by underfunding it. Now Barton is saying, "...while I think the fund needs to be reduced, I am against using the money collected for anything other than its intended purpose."

It's like the plot of Megamind come to life. Suddenly, the villain is a hero. Well, except for that "the fund needs to be reduced" part.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Equivalent <> identical

Today's shake of the head goes to Edline's comments on the ESL. Here's what got my head moving:
" Given the finding of functional equivalence in the Sixth Report and Order, e-mail service and web hosting service should not be separated in different sections of the ESL but should, instead, be contained in the same section, in one “function” category. Such a result will, to the greatest extent possible, ensure that disparate treatment of these functionally equivalent services does not occur now, or in the future."

Um, well, what the FCC said in paragraph 101 of the Sixth Report & Order was:
"We recognize that the transfer of messages across a school’s hosted website is functionally equivalent to other services that facilitate the ability to communicate such as e-mail, text messaging, voice mail, and paging."

So if Web hosting should be in the same "function" category as e-mail, shouldn't text messaging, voice mail and paging be lumped in there, too? Oh wait, they're all telecom services. So I guess "functionally equivalent" doesn't mean "functionally identical." And it doesn't mean that they should all be treated identically.

And looking more closely at the FCC's order, it doesn't say that Web hosting is functionally equivalent to e-mail. It says that activity like blogging is functionally equivalent. So only part of Web hosting is functionally equivalent.

I can understand why a Web hosting company would want to get lumped in with e-mail: many in the E-Rate community have come out in favor of dumping Web hosting from eligibility, and lashing themselves to a more popular service like e-mail is a good defense. And Edline was using the functionally equivalent argument to try to further stretch the definition of Web hosting.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

FCC rocks

Man, I love it when lawyers submit appeals to the FCC.

When school and library employees post, they're basically saying, "We're really sorry, but in your great wisdom and mercy, please grant us our humble request. For the children."

But when the lawyers write appeals, they say things like, "An Order not based on substantial evidence and states mere conjecture … without substantial evidence is arbitrary, capricious, not in accordance with law, unwarranted by the facts. an abuse of discretion and is reversible." (Here's the whole appeal.)

I guess they don't teach the "get more flies with honey" philosophy in law school.

And in a nod to Dave Barry, I will note that "Abuse of Discretion" would be a great name for a rock band.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Hidden rule

So I was reading through the instructions for the Form 471 (looking in vain for definitions of the terms "district" and "consortium") when I came across this nugget:

"In addition, if you are a consortium that includes non-governmental entities ineligible for universal service support, you should note that you cannot negotiate pre-discount prices below tariff rates for interstate services from incumbent local telephone companies."


OK, first off, I'm always whining about the secret rules, but this is a prime example of a hidden rule. I mean, you have a rule about when you're allowed to negotiate rates , and the best place to put it is the instructions for the Form 471 in the section on how to fill out Item 5a (where you say if you're a school, library, district or consortium)? Let's assume the ridiculous, and say that applicants could read all the rules. Even so, the Form 471 is completed after rates are negotiated, so it would be reasonable for applicants to read the instructions for that form after rates are negotiated.

Second, the rule is weird. So if my consortium has non-governmental entities eligible for support, or governmental entities not eligible for support, I'm still OK to negotiate a better rate, but if one of the entities is both non-governmental and not eligible for E-Rate, then I have to take the tariff rate? And if I go with a competitive local exchange carrier instead of an incumbent, I can negotiate a lower rate? For a rule to be so odd, there must be some hairy FCC politics behind it.