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Thursday, December 22, 2016


Wow, now here's a bad idea.  You can only contact USAC's Ombudsman through the Client Service Bureau.  Try emailing the ombudsman, and you get an auto-reply telling you to contact CSB (in the E-Rate, even customer service hides behind an acronym). Is this part of the new "Customer Engagement"?

I shouldn't complain, because it's good news for E-Rate consultants.  What will an applicant do when they get a response from CSB that is a quote from some SLD Web page that doesn't answer their question, but has whatever keyword the CSB rep searched for in trying to find an answer?  The Ombudman was created to help applicants who were getting stymied by CSB (or other contacts with USAC).  Now if you can't get a straight answer from the CSB (who, I believe, work in Lawrence, KS for Vangent, a division of General Dynamics, which is contracted by Solix, which is contracted by USAC, unless one of those contracts has changed), you can contact...the CSB.  And if that doesn't work, you can go to...the CSB.  After a couple of rounds of getting unhelpful quotes from SLD Web pages, applicants will have no choice but to ask a consultant (or maybe a state E-Rate coordinator, though back in 2009, the GAO said that 79% of applicants found consultants are very or extremely helpful, while only 67% said state coordinators were).

Speaking for myself, the disappearance of the Ombudsman just means that instead of contacting that office, I'll go straight to whichever USAC employee has the info I need.  As an E-Rate professional, I know who does what inside USAC, and usually I have met the people involved.  I was only using the Ombudsman to be respectful of other USAC staff's time.  (I apologize in advance to all the folks at USAC who will be hearing from me more often.)  But a regular applicant has not had the good fortune to interact with the lovely people at USAC (that's meant to be unctuous, not sarcastic; they really are nice people), so the applicant is stuck.  I guess they'll contact Craig Davis directly, or try to write to the USAC Board.

Can we start a petition to save the Ombudsman?

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