Rural Health Care

Step 3 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 required under applicable state, Tribal, or local procurement rules or regulations.

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; and
  • The bid evaluation criteria, including the weight assigned to each criteria.
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.

Requirements

The RFP must include:

  • 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.

  • Specified Detailed Requirements – The HCF Order states that the RFP is an optional document, but provides the HCP 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Recommendations

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.