netcurmudgeon (netcurmudgeon) wrote,

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E-Rate, the thing that would not die.

I spent most of last night sprawled out in the living room poring over submission documents prepared by the consultants. I found one trivial error, three minor errors, one major error, and one catastrophic error. The trivial one was explained by rounding error introduced when an annual cost had to be expressed as a monthly fee (and the 3¢ variance will stand). The three minors were the same error repeated in three places – the wrong site name for a school. In the major, the person doing data entry picked a number from the wrong column (the amount we're asking the Feds for, not the full cost); a simple mistake with a $75,693.61 price tag. All these are easy to correct. That leaves the one biggie.

The biggie was that the application uses the school systems district-wide ID number for every individual request instead of each individual site's ID number for their individual requests. The error was apparently caused by a change the Feds made to their web-based system for importing student demographic data. It would have been catastrophic if it went in that way due to the new 'two years in five' eligibility rules – using the district code would have blown a year of eligibility for every school in the district, whether they got any equipment or not. The result is that our consultants have to trash this thirty five page application and start over. The good news is that the filing deadline is 23:59 EST next Thursday. They should have the application re-keyed over the weekend, and submitted early next week with days to spare.

I have to wonder about the thought process at USAC (the Universal Service Administrative Company – the non-profit corporation created by the FCC to administer the E-Rate program). USAC chose right now, smack in the middle of the filing window for 2006-2007 funding, to launch a brand new, redesigned from roots to branches, web site. I mean, WTF? Could you make the process harder, please? If I were a more conspiracy-oriented person I would suspect Bush administration meddling to foul a program that mostly helps poor kids. Alas, I think simple bureaucratic stupidity suffices as an explanation.

At least today, people were better behaved and there was no reason to look longingly at the flag locker and the pegs that hold my cutlass.

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