Step 3: Evaluate Bids & Select Service Provider
After USAC posts the FCC Form 461 (Request for Services Form) on the USAC website for a minimum of 28 days, you will evaluate all bids received during the competitive bidding period and choose the most cost-effective solution.
Use the bid evaluation criteria on your FCC Form 461 to evaluate all bids received from service providers, taking into account the weights and minimum requirements given to each criteria and any disqualification factors that removed bids from consideration. You must consider and evaluate all bids received during the competitive bidding period and must document how you evaluated each bid. Service providers should be evaluated on how well they meet each criterion. After evaluating all bids, you must select the most cost-effective bid. If you are subject to competitive bidding, then you must certify to USAC that the services selected are the most cost-effective option available.
The FCC defines “most cost-effective” 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.”
There is no minimum number of bids that you must receive to request funding through the RHC program, however:
If you do not receive any bids during your 28-day competitive bidding period, you have a few options for how to proceed:
- Repost the FCC Form 461 for a minimum of 28 additional days to solicit more bids.
- If you are already receiving the requested service under an existing contract, use your current contract as a “standing bid” to obtain the requested services or equipment. The current contract must have been signed and the services installed before the competitive bidding process began.
If you only receive one bid, you are free to accept this bid as long as it is evaluated using the evaluation criteria. You must submit a copy of ALL bids received, including winning, losing, and disqualified. For disqualified bids, you must provide an explanation for the disqualification.
Sign a Service Agreement
Once you select a service provider, you may enter into a service agreement or sign a contract with the selected provider on or after the Allowable Contract Selection Date (ACSD), the day after the number of days the FCC Form 461 is posted on the USAC website. If you enter into a new contract or service agreement before the ASCD, you will be denied funding.
The next step after signing a service agreement with your service provider is to submit the FCC Form 462 (Funding Request). This form provides information about the services, equipment, or network facilities selected, and certifies that those services were the most cost-effective option of the offers received. When you file your FCC Form 462, you must submit a contract or other documentation that clearly identifies:
- The service provider(s) selected and the HCP(s) that will receive the services;
- The service, bandwidth, and costs for which support is being requested; and
- The term of the service agreement, if applicable (i.e., if services will not be provided on a month-to-month basis).
- You must also submit documentation with your FCC Form 462 to support the competitive bidding process and funding being sought, including how you selected this service provider. See 47 CFR § 54.643 for more details.
If your contract covers more than one funding year and meets other specified criteria, you can request evergreen determination, allowing you to bypass competitive bidding for the life of the contract and up to five years of voluntary extensions. You must request any voluntary extensions in that initial evergreen contract review and they must be included in the evergreen endorsement. If you would like this contract to be considered for evergreen determination, it must meet the following criteria:
- Both parties are identified
- HCP signed AND dated contract
- Specifies service type, bandwidth, quantity, and terms of services
- Specifies the term of the contract
- Specifies the cost of services to be provided
- Includes the physical addresses or other identifying information of the HCPs purchasing from the contract
When completing your FCC Form 462 in RHC Connect, you must upload the contract you would like reviewed for evergreen determination in the “Contract Information” section. If you do not upload your contract in this section, it will be considered “month-to-month” and you will have to go through competitive bidding for the following funding year if you do not meet any other exemptions. You will be notified of the evergreen determination in your funding commitment letter (FCL). Read more about evergreen contracts.
The material on these webpages is provided for general information only and should not be relied upon or used as the sole basis for making decisions without consulting the RHC program rules, orders, and other primary sources of information. Applicants and service providers are ultimately responsible for knowing and complying with all RHC program rules and procedures.