After determining eligibility, the next step requires the applicant to ensure a fair and open competitive bidding process by taking action to avoid potential conflicts of interest, developing criteria to evaluate submitted bids, and developing required documents describing their service needs.
Some applicants may be exempt from the competitive bidding requirements if they meet certain requirements or have a contract deemed evergreen by USAC.
The evaluation criteria are the standards against which submitted bids are evaluated, and must be included on the FCC Form 461, Request for Services Form.
The evaluation criteria should include the most important criteria needed to provide health care as determined by the applicant, and considered most cost-effective. The FCC defines this as the method that costs the least after consideration of the features, quality of transmission, reliability, and other factors that the health care provider deems relevant to choosing a method of providing the required health care services.
Cost must be a primary factor. Although other factors may receive the same weight as cost, no single factor can receive a weight that is greater than cost. Applicants should assign a weight to each evaluation criterion in order of importance, and use the criteria to score each bid received after the allowable contract selection date (ACSD) to ensure all bids are evaluated equally.
Applicants may find the following criteria to be sufficient to determine the most cost-effective bidder:
In addition to the above criteria, more complex projects, such as those that involve designing or constructing a new network or building upon an existing network, may include non-cost factors in their evaluation criteria, such as, but not limited to:
Applicants not exempt from competitive bidding must submit bid evaluation documentation with the FCC Form 461.
A request for proposal (RFP) is a formal bidding document that describes a project and requests services in sufficient detail so that potential bidders understand the scope, location, time frame, and any other requirements. Applicants using an RFP for competitive bidding (per requirements or voluntarily) are required to submit the RFP with their FCC Form 461.
USAC recommends consortia applicants submit an RFP with their FCC Form 461 to better facilitate the process of requesting a future site or service substitution. Sample RFPs are available on the Sample Documents page.
The applicant must prepare a narrative that describes specific elements of their network plan to be submitted with their FCC Form 461. Applicants are required to use program support for the purposes described in their narrative. For a comprehensive list of requirements and recommendations for the network plan, visit the Network Plan web page.
Potential service providers must have access to the same information and must be treated in the same manner. Before developing bid evaluation criteria, the applicant should first take steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest during the process that could result in the denial of funds.
Service providers submitting bids are prohibited from any involvement in setting bid evaluation criteria; from participating in the bid evaluation or vendor selection process (except in their role as potential vendors); or from preparing, signing, or submitting an HCP's FCC Form 465 documents.