Step 1: Competitive Bidding
What is Competitive Bidding?
Competitive bidding is a formal process to identify and request products and/or services the applicants need, so that potential service providers can review those requests and submit bids for them. This process is designed to be fair and open, and requires the applicant to select the most cost-effective provider based on its bid evaluation factors. However, price of the eligible equipment and services must be given the most weight during the bid evaluation process.
The entity that will run the competitive bidding process may include an applicant, a state procurement agency, or another entity that an applicant has authorized to negotiate on your behalf with a Letter of Agency (LOA). This entity certifies an FCC Form 470 (Description of Services Requested and Certification) in the E-Rate Productivity Center (EPC) and must be prepared to receive and evaluate bids and negotiate with service providers.
Filing an FCC Form 470
The FCC Form 470 for the upcoming funding year is generally available in EPC one year before the start of the funding year.
Services provided under tariff or on a month-to-month basis require an FCC Form 470 to be posted each year. However, if a multi-year contract results from a completed competitive bidding process, it is not necessary to post a new FCC Form 470 in subsequent funding years until the existing contract has expired and a new contract is required.
After the FCC Form 470 is certified, USAC will issue an FCC Form 470 Receipt Notification Letter (RNL) in the entity’s EPC News feed. Applicants can edit some fields in a certified FCC Form 470. Allowable changes include:
- editing an application name
- changing the main contact person and/or technical contact person
- making minor, non-substantial updates to an RFP
Applicants must wait at least 28 days from the date the FCC Form 470 is certified before closing the competitive bidding process. Changes to the FCC Form 470 beyond the allowable changes require applicants to restart the 28 days waiting period from the date of the substantial change before selecting a service provider, signing a contract, or certifying an FCC Form 471.
If a consultant is assisting you with the application process, you must go to your organization profile in EPC, add your consultant in the Manage Your Organization Relationships area of your EPC account, and identify your consultant on your FCC Form 470.
Requests for Proposals
The entity filing an FCC Form 470 can issue a request for proposals (RFP), in addition to the FCC Form 470. In general, an RFP is a formal bidding document that describes the project and requested services or products in sufficient detail, so that potential bidders understand the scope, location, and any other requirements. However, we use “RFP” or “RFP document” generically to refer to any bidding document that describes the applicant’s project and requested services or products in more detail than in the fields provided on the FCC Form 470.
E-rate program rules do not require applicants to issue an RFP, except for certain service types as listed below). Generally, you are not required to issue an RFP unless your state or local procurement rules or regulations require you to do so. However, if you have issued or will issue an RFP, you must upload that document as part of the your FCC Form 470 in EPC. Do not upload a document that simply contains a link to the RFP. The actual RFP or RFP document must be uploaded with your FCC Form 470.
There are additional FCC Form 470 posting requirements for requesting leased dark fiber and for self-provisioned networks.
Please note that an RFP is required with your FCC Form 470 in EPC if you are requesting the options for:
- “Leased Dark Fiber and Leased Lit Fiber”
- “Self-Provisioned Network and Services Provided Over Third Party Networks”
- “Network Equipment”
- “Maintenance & Operations”
- “Cellular Data Plan/Air Card Service”
If you issue RFP documents after your FCC Form 470 is certified, you are required to upload them to your form using the Add an RFP Document feature in the Related Actions menu on your form in EPC. You will also have to wait 28 days from the date you uploaded your RFP or RFP document before selecting a service provider if you do not submit the document at the time you are submitting your FCC Form 470.
Exemption from Filing an FCC Form 470
Commercially available business class Internet access services are exempt from the FCC Form 470 posting requirement if they cost $3,600 or less annually per entity (school or library), including any one-time costs such as installation; provide bandwidth speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream and 10 Mbps upstream; and provide basic conduit access to the Internet at those required minimum speeds.
Open and Fair Competitive Bidding Process
The entity filing the FCC Form 470 must ensure that the competitive bidding process is open and fair:
- All bidders must be treated the same.
- No bidder can have advance knowledge of the project information.
- There are no secrets in the process – such as information shared with one bidder but not with others – and that all bidders know what is required of them.
- With limited exceptions, service providers and potential service providers cannot give gifts to applicants.
- In addition, the value of free services and/or products (e.g., price reductions, promotional offers, free products) generally must be deducted from the pre-discount cost of funding requests.
Once the competitive bidding process has closed, the entity that filed the FCC Form 470 must evaluate the bids received and select the service provider(s) that will provide the requested services and/or products as described further in the next step, Selecting Service Providers.