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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Eligibility brief

The new proposed Eligible Services List came out last week, but I'm just getting around to reading it today.  I'll give you my reactions as I read though.  (It's sort of like one of those unboxing videos, only more boring.)

Before we open the box, let's just look at the size of it.  4 pages of pre-amble, 8 pages of ESL.  And shaking the box a bit, I see that the ESL rules are rattling around in mostly empty pages. Uh oh, looks like we're stuck with ESL Lite for another year.

The card attached to the box is not bad: the proposed ESL was released on May 21st, with comments due by June 22nd.  A month for comments gives us all a long time to ruminate.  And the early due date for comments means we might get an ESL in the summer.  That's only fair, since at the recent fiber WAN workshop, the FCC wanted applicants to get 470s up in July.

The package has a meager ribbon: In the past, the ESL was always in Docket 02-6.  Somewhere along the way, Docket 09-51 got thrown in.  Last year, they added Docket 13-184, the docket created for the E-Rate modernization NPRM.  This year, we're down to Docket 13-184.  Is Docket 02-6 going the way of the dodo?  Why not a new docket for the proposed ESL each year?  We need to do something to address the E-Rate docket deficiency.  The single docket is good news for paper filers, since it means they only need to send one copy along with the original, not the 5 copies they had to send when 3 dockets were listed.

Oh, dear, I don't like the pattern on the wrapping paper: the small "r" in "E-Rate."  At least the use was consistent.  And again the phrase "more commonly referred to as the E-rate program," when as I've said before, the capital "R" is more common among Congresspeople, the press and FCC Commissioners, and even the Chairman (at least until recently).

First smile comes from a footnote: "...we do not invite requests for reconsideration of the E-rate Modernization Orders as part of this notice seeking comment on the proposed funding year 2016 ESL."  In other words: "Don't tell us you want Web hosting and voice back.  Tell us what you think about the wording and format."

"The proposed ESL adds equipment necessary to make a broadband service functional to the list of eligible costs for leased lit fiber, dark fiber, and self-provisioned broadband networks. This clarification is necessary to fully equalize the treatment of lit and dark fiber and to support self-provisioned broadband networks."  Yes, and combined with the earlier "...applicants must seek competitive bids for network maintenance and operation, and all other eligible services and equipment," it means that dark-fiber companies can't make their bid look cheaper by failing to include the cost of electronics.  A win for the phone companies.

"...the costs for bundled voice and data services provided over a single circuit, must be cost allocated."  That's got me worried.  Am I going to have to make up a number for the miniscule portion of my 100 Mbps circuit that is being used for VoIP, and then apply the lower voice discount to that?  We'll see when I get to the actual ESL.

"...applicants that may be receiving ISDN as bundled voice and data service...."  Nope.  ISDN is a data service.  It's just that no one uses it for anything but voice.  (Is there anyone out there still using 3 BRIs for videoconferencing?  Please tell me no one is using a BRI to dial up the Internet.  And a PRI is just a T-1 set up for voice, so if someone's using it for data, it's just a T-1.)  Also, at least around here, unless the PRI has been there for more than 3 years, when a provider gives an applicant a PRI, it only stays a PRI until it hits the service provider's router in the applicant's building.  It leaves the back end of that router as IP packets.

Hey, look, comments to be filed at!  Faithful readers will know that I miss those icelandic waterfalls.  Alas, it just forwards you to the real page:  Stupid Web trick: For those of you that miss hraunfoss as much as I do, you can use  Svartifoss does not work, so I guess the FCC never took my suggestion to use that name.

"Additional guidance from USAC about the E-rate application process and about eligible services,
including a glossary of terms, is available at USAC’s website at  The documents on USAC’s website are not incorporated by reference into the ESL and do not bind the Commission.  Thus, they will not be used to determine whether a service or product is eligible."  So you want to know what is meant by "Radio loop" or "Interconnected voice over Internet protocol"?  Go look on USAC's Web site.  But that definition is not binding, so you're really just guessing.

Hey, where is that glossary?  I looked in the Reference Area: nothing.  I searched for the word "glossary" and the only two uses of the word were here and here, with both pages saying the glossary was part of the ESL.  So the ESL says the glossary is on the USAC website, and the USAC website says it's in the ESL.  Beautiful.

OK, let's see which digital transmission services get us to 1) broadband (defined by the FCC as 25 Mbps) and 2) 100 Mbps (the goal set in the E-Rate Modernization Order).
Technology Top Speed Broadband 100 Mbps
Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) 10 Gbps Yes Yes
Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) Service not
? No
Cable Modem 150 Mbps Yes Yes
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), theoretical
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), actual
100 Mbps
6-50 Mbps
DS-1 (T-1)
DS-3 (T-3)
Fractional T-1
Fractional T-3
1.5 Mbps
45 Mbps
< 1.5 Mbps
< 45 mbps
Ethernet 10 Gbps Yes Yes
1.5 Mbps
128 kbps
Leased Lit Fiber 10 Gbps Yes Yes
Dark Fiber 10 Gbps Yes Yes
Self-Provisioned Broadband Networks 10 Gbps Yes Yes
Frame Relay 45 Mbps Yes No
Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) 10 Gbps Yes Yes
50 Mbps
150 Mbps
622 Mbps
n x 50 Mbps
if n>1
Satellite Service, theoretical
Satellite Service, actual
1 Gbps
15 Mbps
Switched Multimegabit Data Service 45 Mbps
(if you can travel back to the 1990s)
Yes No
Telephone dial-up 0.056 Mbps No No
Wireless services (e.g., microwave) 1 Gbps Yes Yes
So if we tossed voice out of the program, is it time to start tossing digital transmission that doesn't help us get to the goal of the program?  Or at least get rid of circuits that aren't even broadband?

"Applicants may seek special construction funding for the upfront, non-recurring costs of deployment of new or upgraded facilities, including design and engineering, project management, and construction of network facilities."  Does that mean I can get E-Rate funding for the cost of a design firm to write my RFP?  Or is it more like the design of a C2 solution, which has to be done by the installer right before installation?  If the FCC wants top-notch fiber RFPs, they should pay part of the cost to create them.

"The reduced discount rate for voice services will apply to all applicants and all costs for the provision of telephone services and circuit capacity dedicated to providing voice services...."  Hmm....  "Dedicated," eh?  Well, you can't really "dedicate" a portion of a circuit in a packet-switched network, so I guess this only applies to dedicated circuits.  That's OK.

"Firewall protection that is provided by a vendor other than the Internet access provider or priced out separately will be considered a Category Two internal connections component." By the people who brought you the On-Premise Priority One Equipment morass, it's the brand-new "Off-Premise Category Two Service," coming soon to an ESL near you.  I guess we already had O-PCTS with cloud-based WLAN controllers.  I dislike loopholes, but I have to say that O-PCTS is a better idea than O-PPOE, because no one's trying to cram things into C2.

"Access points...such as wireless access points."  That implies that there are access points that aren't wireless.  If such a device were not wireless, it would be called a "hub."

Hey, UPS is just listed as eligible.  There is absolutely nothing in the ESL which says a UPS is only eligible if supports eligible equipment.  So go ahead and plug your ineligible servers into that E-Rated UPS.

"A manufacturer’s multi-year warranty for a period up to three years that is provided as an integral part of an eligible component, without a separately identifiable cost, may be included in the cost of the component."  That means that if the warranty is longer than 3 years, it may not be included in the cost of the component.  So now I've got to make up some cost for the lifetime hardware warranty that's standard on most manufacturers' switches?  Oh, wait, if I didn't put the warranty on my 470 or RFP, then I can just say it's ancillary.  What if I ask for at least a 3-year warranty and I end up with a lifetime warranty?  I think I'll need a lawyer to split the hair of whether asking for an eligible warranty but getting an ineligible one still fits into the Ancillary Use definition.  Or since it's a bundled warranty, is it eligible, just not as part of the purchase?  Three years after buying the equipment, I could start making separate BMIC FRNs for $0 to cover the non-cost of the bundled warranty....

Why do I think some service provider is going to try to jimmy their video server into the Caching definition?

"The agreement or contract must specifically identify the eligible internal connections covered, including product name, model number, and location."  Why?

"Upfront estimates that cover the full cost of every piece of eligible equipment."  That implies that as long as my upfront estimate is for less than the full cost of every piece, I'm good.

And that's all she wrote.

Wait!  We just heard last week that the FCC will be requiring RFPs for self-provisioned fiber, and requiring that applicants seeking self-provisioned fiber have to solicit bids for leased fiber.  How is that not mentioned?  That's a whopping new and unusual condition on eligibility.  It should be in the ESL.

Does anyone else feel like this blog post is longer than the ESL?

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