Open & Fair Process
Applicants must ensure an open and fair competitive bidding process.
In the FCC Form 470 (Description of Services Requested and Certification Form), the applicant describes the types of products and services desired. The competitive bidding process begins when the FCC Form 470 is certified in the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC). The applicant must be ready to accept bids once the FCC Form 470 is certified. Service providers will review the applicant’s FCC Form 470 through EPC and submit bids to provide the requested products and services. Applicants report the selected products and services on the FCC Form 471 (Description of Services Ordered and Certification Form).
Request for Proposals
A request for proposal (RFP) is not required in most circumstances, but providing one could help service providers better understand the services you seek bids on. An RFP describes the project undertaken and contains sufficient details to inform potential bidders of the scope, location, and any other requirements for the project.
If an RFP exists, the applicant must upload the document as part of the online FCC Form 470 filing process. If state or local procurement regulations impose additional requirements, such as eligibility requirements for bidders, these requirements must also be noted on FCC Form 470.
Conducting an Open and Fair Competitive Bidding Process
The goal of the competitive bidding process is to have as many bidders as possible respond to an FCC Form 470, RFP, or other solicitation method so that the applicant can receive better service and lower prices. The applicant must take an affirmative role in evaluating bids. Applicants may not delegate the evaluation role to anyone associated with a service provider.
When reviewing bids, the applicant must conduct a fair and open competitive procurement.
- “Open” means 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.
- “Fair” means that all bidders are treated the same and that no bidder has advance knowledge of the project information.
The FCC Form 470, RFP, or other solicitation method should be clear about the type and quantity of products and services the applicant is seeking and must be based directly on the applicant’s technology needs. In addition, the applicant must avoid using generic or encyclopedic service descriptions on their FCC Form 470, RFP, or other solicitation method. Generic or encyclopedic requests will inhibit service providers from composing a responsive bid without additional information or insight into the applicant’s bid solicitation.
- Examples of a generic FCC Form 470 or service description include “all eligible services,” “any Schools and Libraries (E-rate) Program products,” or “all telecom services.”
- Examples of an “encyclopedic” service description are replications of the entire Eligible Services List or a “grocery” list of services that does not cover a specific service or product.
In order to be sure that an open and fair competition is achieved, any marketing discussions held with service providers must be neutral, so as not to taint the competitive bidding process. For example, the applicant should not have a relationship with a service provider prior to the competitive bidding process that would unfairly influence the outcome of a competition or would furnish the service provider with “inside” information or allow it to unfairly compete in any way. Similarly, applicants must avoid conflicts of interest in the bidding process.
Similarly, applicants must avoid conflicts of interest in the bidding process. For example, a conflict of interest exists when the applicant’s consultant is associated with a service provider that is selected and is involved in determining the services sought by the applicant and the selection of the applicant’s service provider(s).