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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Between the acting of a dreadful thing and the first motion, all the interim is like a phantasma

Frankly, the departure of Scott Barash, USAC's CEO, wouldn't have warranted a blog post, but one statement in the press release caught my eye: "served as Acting CEO since January 2006."  That's right, for most of USAC's existence, Barash has been acting CEO.  Thinking of him waiting 8 years for someone to make a decision makes me feel better about the speed of the appeals I have sitting at the FCC.

The press release says we'll now have an "interim" CEO.  Maybe after a few years, they'll upgrade her/him to "acting."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Webhost warpath

At least it's better than soliciting spamments.  One web hosting company just sent out an email to customers with a handy online form for adding yourself to their letter asking the FCC to keep Web hosting as a Priority One service.

One statement in the email caught my eye: "...thousands of school districts from across the United States submitted comments on the proposed E-rate funding changes...."  Thousands?!  That seemed a bit high, so I checked: there are only 1,513 comments filed in Docket 13-184.  And a lot of those are not from applicants.  I would bet there are fewer than 1,000 comments from school districts.

I said long ago that I think web hosting is overpriced, but since it eats up less than 2% of the fund, it's not worth a lot of my time.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Another year another E-Rate Survival Guide from E-SchoolNews.  (I know they'd like it spelled eSchoolNews, but as I promised, if they're going to pervert the name of our beloved program to "eRate," I will make my own changes to their name.)

I wouldn't say it's really a survival guide.  More of a "State of the Program."  But it has good information, and finishes with the suggestion that applicants should hire a consultant, and of course I'm behind that.

Since Mitel sponsored the guide, it's no surprise that it includes a suggestion that given the current funding shortage is to shift costs to Priority One by purchasing hosted voice services like, say, Mitel's MiCloud VoIP service.

That's pretty good advice for many applicants, and hosted VoIP is the way a lot of applicants are going, especially smaller ones.  But there is one niggling worry in the back of my mind.

Change is coming to the E-Rate.  It is likely that by Funding Year 2015-2016, the program will be focused on increasing the bandwidth to schools.  One of the ways that the FCC is considering to find more funding for bandwidth is to kick some outmoded services out of the program.  For example, it looks like pagers' days are numbered.  The problem is, if you only throw out completely outmoded services, you only save a tiny amount of money, since no one is using those services (kind of the definition of "outmoded").  If the FCC wants to really save money, they're going to have to toss out popular services.  One of the suggestions has been to throw voice services out of the program, or at least move it to a lower priority.  The comments of the commissioners make it sound like they want to keep VoIP and toss out traditional voice, but it's hard to see how they do that in a technologically neutral way.

If the FCC does kick voice out, they may phase it out.  (That doesn't solve the funding crunch, but it would be a typical political move to modify a reform to make it more palatable, which makes the reform ineffective.)  But there is a chance that they won't make the change gradually, especially if they're just demoting voice to a lower priority.  The Commission has been known to make rule changes retroactively.

So there is an outside chance that the FCC will change the eligibility of voice, lump VoIP in there, and make the change happen instantly. In that case, it's possible that hosted voice plans won't be funded in 2015-2016.  If you move to hosted voice in 2014-2015, you're almost certainly signing a contract for at least 3 years.  So there is some chance that you won't have E-Rate funding for years 2 and 3 of that contract.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's a bad time to count on E-Rate funding for a multi-year contract, unless maybe it's for bandwidth.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Fire your consultant, hire a psychic

Warning: pointlessly snarky post.

Am I the only one who noticed that this week's SL News Brief, describing the new Form 500 included the sentence:
"Applicants can no longer submit these requests and notifications by email, fax, or on paper."

Since there is no online version, I guess you need to submit your Form 500 telepathically.