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Monday, July 14, 2014

Laws v Rules

In his statement on the E-Rate Modernization Order, Commissioner O'Rielly said, "I do not see where lowest corresponding price is reflected in the underlying statutory authority."  Well, that got me digging.  Sure enough, the three words "lowest corresponding price" are not among the 492 words of 47 U.S.C. § 254(h)(1)(B).  (There were 492 words in that subsection of the law in 1996.  Thanks to CIPA, that subsection is now over 3,000 words.)

The statute also has no hint of anything about competitive bidding, or reimbursements to schools when carriers don't discount bills, or funding for equipment, or limiting funding for equipment to twice in 5 years, or funding services but not equipment to administrative buildings, or record-keeping requirements, or anything in PIA's 700 pages of secret rules, or record-keeping requirements, or just about any other rule in the program. I don't see that the E-Rate program as it exists at all resembles the sketchy outline in the statutes.

The FCC has made up lots of rules that are not reflected in the statute. Just Subpart F of 47 C.F.R. 54 is over 12,000 words, and that doesn't count other applicable sections of Part 54, to say nothing of: dozens of appeal decisions, some with rules tucked into footnotes, the 700 pages of secret rulesold USAC Web pages and slides from old USAC presentations that the FCC has treated as rules.

So why single out lowest corresponding price?  I'm all for reducing the number of rules in this program, but Lowest Corresponding Price is not where I'd start.

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