Rural Health Care

Step 4 Prepare for Competitive Bidding

Request for Proposal

A request for proposal (RFP) is a bidding solicitation that describes the applicant's business priorities and functional requirements in sufficient detail to ensure an effective competitive bidding process.

Applicants are required to submit a formal RFP with the FCC Form 461, Request for Services Form, if it is:

If an applicant plans to issue an RFP, it must be submitted with the FCC Form 461 for USAC review and approval, and it should include, at a minimum:

  • A description of the service needs and a defined scope of the project and network costs (if applicable);
  • The period during which bids will be accepted;
  • Clearly delineated deliverables;
  • The bid evaluation criteria, including the weight assigned to each criteria; and
  • A narrative describing the specific elements of the network plan.

USAC recommends that consortium applicants issue an RFP. If an applicant is not required to and does not issue an RFP, its funding will be capped at $100,000 per funding year even if the winning bid total is higher. In addition, submitting an FCC Form 461 without an RFP may have future contract modification and site/service substitution implications.

Sample RFPs and Checklist

Sample RFPs are available on the Sample Documents page of the USAC website and may provide useful guidance for applicants unfamiliar with the RFP process.

Using a sample RFP will not guarantee approval of the RFP by USAC. Applicants are responsible for reviewing related FCC rules and ensuring their RFP meets the HCF Program requirements.

Use this printable checklist to ensure you include all required elements in your RFP.


The RFP must include:

  1. Neutral Language – The HCF Order states, "Applicants who include a particular service provider’s name, brand, product or service on the FCC Form 461 or RFP must also use the words ‘or equivalent’ in the description, to avoid the appearance that the applicant has pre-selected the named service provider or intends to give the service provider preference in the bidding process."

    The words "or equivalent" must be included after each mention of a particular service provider’s name, brand, product, or service. Particular requests include, but are not limited to: Fiber, Ethernet, VPN, Point-to-Point, T-1, DS1, and Copper.

  1. Bid Evaluation Criteria – The HCF Order states, "Applicants must develop weighted evaluation criteria (e.g., scoring matrix) that demonstrate how the applicant will choose the most ‘cost-effective’ bid before submitting a request for services. Price must be a primary factor, but need not be the only primary factor. A non-price factor can receive an equal weight to price, but may not receive a greater weight than price."

    The bid evaluation criteria must be included in the RFP and, along with the weight percentages listed in the RFP, must match the criteria listed on Line 22 of the FCC Form 461. The bid evaluation criteria must also solicit sufficient information so that the criteria can be applied effectively.

  1. Specified Detailed Requirements about the Needs of the HCP or Consortium – The HCF Order states that the RFP is an optional document, but provides the HCP or consortium the opportunity to specify detailed requirements about its needs so that bidders may understand the scope of their requirements, their location, and any other requirements they may have.
  1. Infrastructure Language – The RFP must include language requesting bidders to provide the cost for (1) owning and (2) leasing the requested infrastructure. This includes indefeasible rights of use (IRUs). The request for both costs must be explicitly stated in the RFP.

    Subject to funding limitations under Sections 54.675 and 54.638, consortium applicants may receive support for network facilities that will be constructed and owned by the consortium or eligible health care providers within the consortium. HCP-owned infrastructure will be supported under HCF only when the consortium demonstrates, following a competitive bidding process that solicits bids for both services and construction, either that the needed broadband is unavailable or that the self-construction approach is the most cost-effective option.

  1. HCP Site Listing The RFP must include a participating member HCP site listing. The site listing must include the site name, address, and HCP number, at a minimum. The HCP information listed in the RFP must also match the HCP information on the FCC Form 461. For consortia, the site listing includes all sites listed on Line 14 of the FCC Form 461.
  1. Competitive Bidding Period – The HCF Order states that the RFP should specify the period in which bids will be accepted. The minimum competitive bidding period is 28 days. The RFP must specify the period during which bids will be accepted and the competitive bidding period given in the RFP must match the competitive bidding period listed on the FCC Form 461.
  1. Requested Contract Period The HCF Order states that the RFP must specify the desired contract length. The requested contract period given in the RFP must also match the requested contract period listed on the FCC Form 461.


The following are not requirements for the RFP but suggested practices and tips to consider when creating an RFP.

  • Invoicing Practices – The RFP should explain the FCC Form 463 and the invoicing process. The HCF Program requires the completion of an FCC Form 463 for applicants to invoice for services. Explaining the FCC Form 463 and the invoicing process to service providers in your RFP may be helpful for them in understanding their responsibility to sign, certify, and submit proper invoices and documentation (including submitting bills for services with a breakdown of eligible and ineligible services) to be reimbursed. Your RFP should also explain the invoicing deadline (6 months after the end of the commitment period).
  • Vendor requirement to obtain a 498 ID – The RFP should explain the HCF Program requirement for the service provider to either have a 498 ID (formerly known as a SPIN) or to obtain a 498 ID by filing the FCC Form 498.

    All service providers participating in the HCF Program are required to either have a 498 ID or apply to obtain a 498 ID by completing an FCC Form 498. The FCC Form 498 must be updated to show that the service provider has acknowledged participation in the HCF Program.

  • Contact Information for the project coordinator The RFP should include the name, address, and contact information (phone number and/or email address) for the project coordinator, assistant project coordinator, or third party and should match the contact information listed on Line 13 (individual) or Line 19 (consortia) of the FCC Form 461.

    The designated contact should be the person responsible for any questions or inquiries about the competitive bidding documents.

  • Service Level Agreement (SLA) – Including a SLA in the RFP will define the quality of service requirements for the network. Usually, an SLA will state when the network should be available, bandwidth required to support this connection, network latency standards, and required response times. These technical requirements are critical for a service provider to prepare an accurate pricing proposal, and for you to conduct an objective evaluation.
  • Site and Service Substitutions – It is strongly recommended that consortia applicants include language allowing the substitution of sites and services over the life of the contract or participation in the HCF Program. Because individual applicants are by definition single-site, they are unable to make site substitutions but they may make service substitutions. This provision allows for the HCP or the consortium to add sites and/or upgrade or change services throughout the length of the contract term without having to re-bid. If this language is not included in both the RFP and contract, the HCP or consortium may not be eligible for site and service substitutions.

    The RFP should include language allowing the substitution of sites and services over the life of the contract. The language reflects the site and service substitution rules found in the HCF order (47 CFR Section 54.646, 746 Appendix D; 47 CFR Section 54.646). Contracts entered into as a result of an RFP, must also contain language that allows for site and service substitutions.

  • Disqualifying Bids – Applicants must specifically define the services/equipment that meet their standards for disqualification. Service providers should also be aware of any services or equipment that the project will chose to disqualify.