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Friday, April 13, 2012

The [r]ussians are coming

Hey, the E-Rate made it into the March issue of the Federal Communications Law Journal (the journal is available online, but the current issue isn't online yet).  The title: Is It Time to Recreate the E-Rate Program?

I'm only getting started on the article (at first, I was daunted by the 30-page length, but it's about 30% footnotes and has the capacious margins usually found in children's books or those college papers where I found I didn't have enough content to fill the requisite pages), so I don't have a full review yet, but right there on the third page (page 278 using the journal's page numbering scheme), and the authors take a stand on a major issue, and I'm incensed.  Here's what got my goat:
"Among the goals articulated in the National Broadband Plan is improvement of 'the connectivity to schools and libraries by upgrading the FCC's E-[r]ate program to increase flexibility [blah blah blah]."

Long-time readers will recognize the [r] as a poke in the eye for those of us who like our "E-Rate" with a big, bold R, not some sniveling little r.  (Probably instead of saying "those of us," I should be saying "those of me," since the rest of the world is probably rolling their eyes and thinking, "Is he really going to go off on this again? (OK, so "rest of the world" should probably be "the other reader of this blog."))

So of course, I ran back to the National Broadband Plan and checked: did they really use the R?  The answer: mostly not.  Of the 94 uses of the word, 7 are correctly capitalized.  And 4 of those are in titles of documents or names of organizations, which is usually capitalized, which of course proves my point that the R should always be capitalized.

And because the caffeine has not yet brought focus to my mind, I found myself following up on the inconsistent capitalization of "State E-Rate Coordinators Alliance" in the National Broadband Plan: what position does SECA take on this important issue?  The answer: a little of this, a little of that.  Now I have been writing paeans to SECA lately for their praiseworthy positions on many important issues, but they really need to make up their mind on this one.  Just looking at their home page, If find 5 E-Rates and 7 E-rates, and I can't see any pattern.  Wait, that's their old home page.  The score from the new home page: hmm, not really any text there.  How about the About Us page?  4 big Rs, 7 little ones, not counting the R in the company title.

The SECA site does have an out-of-the-box solution to this quandary: their logo uses all caps.  So if we said that E-Rate stood for "Educationally-Relevant Assistance in Technology Endowment," then we could call it the E-RATE, and the whole thing would be settled.

Wait a minute.  "Alliance"?!  I thought it was the State E-Rate Coordinators Association.  When did that change?  I've had just enough caffeine to stop me from researching the answer to that question.

How is it that I could write all that about a single [r], when in college I had to pad my margins?  The E-Rate is not that much more interesting than, say, Pushkin's Пи́ковая дама.

Hey, there's a new angle: not capitalizing the "R" conforms to Russian rules for capitalization.  So "E-rate" is a Russian plot to subvert our culture.

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