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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pittsburgh paranoia

Chairman Pai gave a speech at Carnegie Mellon and said something that seemed good at first, but then got me worried.  Here's what he said: "...any direct funding for broadband infrastructure appropriated by Congress as part of a larger infrastructure package should be administered through the FCC’s Universal Service Fund (USF)...."  

Right off the bat, I was encouraged that the Chairman wanted to see the USF grow.  Then my paranoia kicked in.

Since 2005, I have been harboring a paranoid suspicion that Republicans in Congress want to get the USF into the Treasury so it can be bled dry.  We've been saved by the fact that the E-Rate is not funded by Congress, so money cannot be taken from the E-Rate to pay for other priorities.  But if the Chairman's wish is granted, then part of the USF will be funded by Congress.  Once the USF gets a taste for money from the Treasury....

And then it got worse: "...targeted to areas that lack high-speed Internet access."  Oh, no, is this Commissioner O'Rielly's "no fiber funding for counties that have fiber" idea?   The Chairman then says that programs should "reduce wasteful spending by preventing subsidies in areas where the private sector is already investing in networks, so there’s no risk of government investment in overbuilding."  I don't like the sound of that.  One person's "overbuilding" is another person's "competition."

But then I found hope in a single letter: the "s" in "networks."  Now there's a waste-reducing standard I can get behind: the USF won't fund new fiber if multiple broadband providers have fiber installed that can serve their locations.  Unless, of course, self-provisioning would save money for the E-Rate program.  Oh yeah, that's right: applicants already can't self-provision unless it saves money for the E-Rate program, regardless of whether any fiber is near any of its locations.

And finally, a couple of observations about Chairman Pai's speech, which have nothing to do with E-Rate:
  1. The Chairman opened his speech with some banter about the Steelers beating the Chiefs.  Does anyone else think that of all the places in Pittsburgh, the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon is the most likely to be filled with people thinking, "Who are these stealers?  And why are they beating chiefs?"
  2. The Software Engineering Institute played Blackgate Prison in The Dark Knight Rises.  The Chairman's speech, focused on how to "help bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans"  was definitely better than Bane's message of chaos.

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