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Friday, July 19, 2013

Sputnik vs. our children

Busy week, so I'm only just getting to Wednesday's Senate hearing just as the FCC meeting is about to start.

I wondered if there would be some hard-hitting investigation, but I should have known better.  Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) stacked the witness panel with:
  1. A school tech coordinator from Louisiana
  2. A state librarian from Maine (which made sure a Maine accent was still heard with Sen. Snowe (xR-ME) unfortunately having retired)
  3. A VP from Cisco
  4. A commissioner from the LEAD Commission (Leading Education by Advancing Digital, created to advance digital learning)
So of course it was a lovefest.  The witnesses were quite good, actually, but nothing they said really sticks with me.  The main point of every witness?  E-Rate needs more funding.  The only question seemed to be whether we need to increase funding to help our children, or we need to increase funding to keep us from falling behind in the digital arms race.

The only person who was willing to throw cold water on the festivities was Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), a tea party favorite, who tried to point out that local funding was better than a federal program, but of course got nowhere with the witnesses.

The only factoid I got from the hearing was the estimate that applicants spend $50-100 million per year on E-Rate consultants.  This is the worst kind of number, because there was no indication where that estimate came from, and now that someone said it in a Senate hearing, we can expect to see that estimate popping up every time someone wants to talk about the cost of consultants.

Is the figure accurate?  Damned if I know.  My guess would have been half as much, but I don't know what other consultants charge, because even if we wanted to play "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours," we have to be really careful about appearing to collude on pricing, so we just never discuss fees.

So I didn't learn much, but it was nice to hear so much positive talk about the E-Rate.

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