Step 1: Competitive Bidding
What is Competitive Bidding?
Competitive bidding is a formal process to identify and request the products and services you need so that potential service providers can review those requests and submit bids for them.
The entity that will run the competitive bidding process – which may be you, a state procurement agency, or another entity that you have authorized to negotiate on your behalf with a Letter of Agency (LOA) – 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 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-substantive 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 wait 28 days from the date of the change before closing the competitive bidding process.
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 Proposal
The entity filing an FCC Form 470 can issue a request for proposal (RFP) in addition to the FCC Form 470. In general, an RFP is a formal bidding document that describes the project and requested services 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 your project and requested services 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. 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 in EPC. Do not upload a document that simply contains a link to the RFP.
There are additional competitive bidding requirements for leased dark fiber and for self-provisioned networks. The eligible service options are represented on the FCC Form 470 by various drop-down options. The FCC Form 470 Category One Services Drop-Down Menu Reference Table provides additional guidance about how to select the correct drop-down option and when an RFP is required.
Please note that an RFP is required 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.
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 Bid 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 (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 as described further in the next step, Selecting Service Providers.