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Thursday, July 10, 2014

This Pai sticks in the Chairman's craw

Commissioner Pai isn't letting up.  He's released a financial projection of what will happen if the Chairman's reform proposal is implemented.  I'm not clear on where the numbers come from.  But I'm guessing it's based on projected C1 demand (don't call it P1, because it no longer includes a lot of P1 services like phones and Web hosting), a fixed cap, and $1 billion/year taken out of the fund for the Wi-Fi chimera.

The good news: the Commissioner seems to no longer believe in the red-tape funding gap mirage.  When he was doing the calculations for his proposal, that was good for $400 million in savings each year.

I don't think it's fair to say that the plan will "cut" funding.  Even if the Commissioner's pessimistic numbers were right, it's not that anyone is cutting funding, it's that funding for Internet is being crowded out by other priorities.  Voice services, webhosting, email, etc. are being cut (with Commissioner Pai's support).

Yesterday, Commissioner Pai said that the FCC plans to increase the contribution factor after the elections.  Seems to me that you can't have it both ways: the Chairman may be planning to jack our phone bills, or he may be starve the fund so that Internet access won't be funded, but he can't be planning to do both.

But I have to say, I agree with Commissioner Pai's underlying point (and so do a lot of schools and libraries): we should be told how the Chairman plans to pay for years 3 through 5 of his plan.  Commissioner Pai's not the only one worried that come Year 3, a lot of applicants are going to left high and dry.

What's up with the emphasis on rural applicants?  Commissioner Pai always seems to be focused on the rural.  In his reform proposal, rural applicants got twice as much funding as non-rural.  And in this press release, he says, "many rural schools would lose all of their funding."  Actually, the non-rural schools would be first in line, since rural schools get a 10% goose in their discount at lower levels.  So the first to lose funding would be non-rural schools with 0%-1% low-income kids (20% discount).  Then the rural schools with 0%-1% low-income kids (25% discount).  Then non-rural with 1%-19.5% low-income (40%).  The 50% band has both rural schools with 1%-19.5% low-income and non-rural with 19.5%-34.5% low-income.

So while the cuts imagined by Commissioner Pai would affect rural school children, they would affect a lot more non-rural children.

So Commissioner Pai gets a tip of my hat for pointing out that the emperor loses his clothes in year 3 of this reform, and a wag of my finger for overstating the harm, especially the harm to rural students.

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