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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.

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