FOCUS
  • Concentrating efforts along the right priorities in an effective manner
  • Honing attention, time and energy into fulfilling specific responsibilities
  • Guarding against distractions and saying “no” to that which degrades high-quality performance
COMMENTARY
Today we’re going to talk about focus. Predictably, that means we’re going to talk about cameras. Even more predictably, I’m going to start by offering a potentially offensive statement:
 
Owning a nice camera – even an expensive model - does not make one a professional photographer.
 
Look, I get it that your sister-in-law’s baby cousin Tracy has that super-expensive fancy camera and that she’ll be happy to take pictures of your 7-month-old wearing a train engineer’s hat and sitting on a hay bale in a public park for a nominal fee as long as she can place a watermark the size of a Chevy Van at the bottom left of the frame, and I wish both of you the best. But I don’t classify Tracy as a professional.
 
Establishing myself as having an offensively high standard as to what constitutes a professional photographer is critical to my next point:  I’m going to talk about how cameras work, but I myself am not a professional photographer. (Actually, this just gives me an out in case I am utterly and completely wrong about how cameras work. Come to think of it, Tracy’d probably be better off if she advertised not being a professional as well. It’s the ultimate deflection shield for crummy work! Don’t like it? Well then you SHOULD HAVE HIRED A PROFESSIONAL.)
 
Where were we?  Oh yeah, cameras…focus. (Zing. That was a good one.)  A hopefully less offensive opinion is that technology is cool.  And camera technology is no exception. Most of the time, I prefer photographs which are properly focused (creative endeavors notwithstanding.)  And it turns out that cameras employ some pretty neat tricks for helping get things in focus.
 
There are lots of painstakingly detailed columns that do a better job of explaining it than I, but a lot of modern cameras have various focusing modes that help the photographer ensure that the lens focuses on the subject as intended. Some modes take a “best guess” approach as to the subject of the photo and automatically focus there, some continuously focus on the subject and “predict” where it is going to be in the frame when the shutter is fired, and some allow the photographer to always focus on a specific area of the frame, irrespective of what happens to be in it. That one is sometimes referred to as spot focusing.
 
Spot focusing is forcibly locking an arbitrary focus point in order to achieve a specific objective. It’s pretty easy to understand if you’ve ever had the problem where your phone camera keeps focusing on the wrong thing in a shot – a lot of them allow you to tap the screen to set where the lens focuses (among adjusting other things.) This doesn’t mean that the entire rest of the photo goes automatically out of focus, though. Everything is still there, still valid, it’s just that the focus gets prioritized to a specific range of the frame.
 
Just like E-rate. (Sorry, I had to get there eventually.) If you’ve been working with the program for a long time, you may have noticed that there is something of an ebb and flow to the focus of the administrators’ compliance reviews. It’s not that there is ever a time that certain rules don’t matter or aren’t valid (some of the rules we follow today have been in place since the very first Funding Year), but USAC has this uncanny tendency to spot focus on particular compliance topics. Application reviews, audits, and training materials seem hyper-focused on a particular rule for a while, and that eventually wanes to give way to the next compliance element du jour. Remember how much back-and-forth we had about gift rules a while back? There were entire sections of USAC’s training sessions dedicated to them.  Now they’re just one slide, if not a single bullet. Remember the fascination with the eligibility of web hosting services? On-Premise Priority One Equipment for VoIP service, perhaps?
 
As a program participant, you are expected to follow all program rules, unless the FCC offers a specific exemption. But as a veteran, I can tell you that knowing which rules are going to be especially scrutinized at any given time can up your overall compliance game (or at the very least, give you some useful perspective for collecting and organizing your compliance documentation.) To that end, here are a few that have been in heavy rotation recently:
  • Special Construction: eligible for E-rate discounts, and guaranteed to be subject to a painfully thorough review on all counts.
  • Duplicative and Redundant Services: Got more than one request for Internet access? Get ready for a PIA question.
  • Addresses: Is your address on your vendor’s invoice? If so, it better match the address USAC has on file for you in EPC.
  • FRN Line Items: Did you file for an XYZ-123-B but get billed for an XYZ-123-C? Service substitution time!
Sometimes I wish USAC would just leave it in full auto mode. It’s all important, and it’s all required, so just turn the dial to the green square and start snapping. It’s how you generate the greatest quantity of product whilst still retaining the highest possible quantity. When you encounter a particularly dark or shady room, then you can go into one of those shooting modes that made your camera so expensive. But using them all the time just because you can isn’t professional… it’s exhausting. 

Key Words and Phrases

To concentrate attention; Emphasis; Fasten; Center; Train; To have a clear perception; To bring to focus.

Opposite Terms

Blurry; Out of focus; Without direction.

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