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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.

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