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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

SECA and Morgan Freeman

In what I'm calling (with apologies to my high school Latin teachers) a sua sponte a posteriori ex parte tabella maxima, the State E-Rate Coordinators Alliance (SECA) has filed with the FCC a request to fix the problem of Black Holes and COMADs. Don't know what black holes have to do with the E-Rate? I don't know who coined the term, but among E-Rate cognoscenti, a "Black Hole" application is an application that has been languishing for years, neither approved or denied. A lot of them are tied to investigations of an applicant, service provider or consultant. Or so one can surmise, since no one can get any information about the reason for the Black Hole.

Pointless aside: Of course this filing has me thinking about Star Trek, what with Black Holes and COMADs (which remind me of NOMAD). Which I guess makes the Chair of SECA Captain Kirk. And I know who's Spock. I don't know the rest of the SECA gang well enough to decide who gets to be Bones, Scotty, Sulu, Chekhov, Uhura, etc.

The first thing that struck me was that there were so few Black Hole applications. I mean, every time we get together for an E-mpa® meeting, someone has a Black Hole horror story. It looks like only about 150 applications from before 2008 are in a Black Hole. I would have guessed 1,000, based on the number of stories I've heard.

But on to the important part of the document, the proposed solutions. And, of course, my ill-considered opinion of them.

Bill of Rights: Oh, yeah! Any one of the items on the list would vastly improve the program. Every item seems like common sense to anyone who hasn't been involved with the E-Rate, but to those of us in the E-Rate trenches, they're like dreams. Well, except if they actually implemented this bill of rights, E-Rate consultants would be much less necessary, and I still have to get my kids through college.

Increased Transparency: Less revolutionary, but also nice. Basically just giving people a clue on how they got into a Black Hole, and letting the public know how many applications are sitting in a Black Hole.

“Under Review” Decisions: Who knew that USAC could issue an FCDL with some of the FRNs marked "Under Review"? So why don't they? Not that I'm surprised; they are also reluctant to use the "As Yet Unfunded" option for FRNs that are waiting to see if they'll clear the denial threshold. My guess? The metrics on their contract don't count an application as complete until all FRNs are decided, so why bother with a partial decision?

Code 9 Procedures: I'm not so sure about this one. SECA is trying to prevent abuse of the ability to make anonymous accusations. I don't think it's that big a problem. I may be wrong, but I have the impression that while every Code 9 accusation is investigated, applications don't sit in a Black Hole unless there is some evidence of a problem. And I don't like impinging on the ability of people to call in anonymously.

Recovery of Funds Deadline: I like the idea of saying that after 5 years, no funds will be recovered. But I don't like their suggestion of forcing USAC to wrap up audits quickly. Because what USAC is doing is considering whether violations found by auditors merit recovery, and I want them to take their sweet time about it. And really, is recovery 7 years after the fact any worse that 5 years after the fact?

Finality of USAC Funding Commitment Decisions Letters: Hear, hear! Why do FCDLs have to count as funding commitments if the decision is going to be reviewed again at invoicing and maybe again later in an audit? If there was intentional deception, then OK, go get them. But if an applicant was forthright in their application, and USAC mistakenly approved funding improperly, don't punish the applicant. Plus, I love the word estoppel. (But if they start estopping things, will a controversy arise of "eStop" vs. "E-Stop"?)

Gradations of Financial COMAD Penalties: Sounds like a good idea, but it's going to add to USAC's workload, and really, isn't an applicant going to appeal any COMAD to the FCC? So let the FCC decide if they want to be in the business of cost-allocating COMADs.

I think I'll have to file an ex post facto ego te amo in support of SECA's Bill of Rights.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Anonymous8:40 AM

    For the next SECA meeting:
    Star Trek personality test