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Conflicts of Interest

Preventing Conflicts of Interest during Competitive Bidding

To ensure that the competitive bidding process is fair, open, and free from conflicts of interest, both applicants and service providers should be aware of these basic principles:

  • Service providers wishing to submit bids in response to an applicant’s request for services are prohibited from also:
    • preparing, signing, or submitting the applicant’s FCC Form 461 (Request for Services Form (for the HCF Program)) or FCC Form 465 (Description of Services Requested & Certification Form (for the Telecom Program))
      • This includes preparing a description of desired services;
    • serving as a Consortium Leader or other point of contact on the applicant’s behalf;
    • being involved in the development of the applicant’s bid evaluation criteria; or
    • participating in the bid evaluation or service provider selection process (except in their role as a potential service provider).
  • Potential bidders must have access to the same information and must be treated in the same manner throughout the competitive bidding process. If the applicant adds to or modifies the request for services, or related documents submitted to and posted by USAC, it must provide the updated documents to USAC immediately to update the posted information.
  • Applicants and service providers must comply with applicable state, Tribal, or local competitive bidding requirements.

State organizations, public sector entities, or nonprofit entities requesting an exemption from the prohibition against providing application assistance to HCF Program consortia and acting as a service provider must demonstrate to USAC that they have set up an organizational and functional separation between staff acting as service providers and staff providing application assistance.  Examples of appropriate documentation include an organizational flow chart, budgetary codes, and supervisory administration. The exemption must be obtained from USAC prior to preparing the FCC Form 461 (Request for Services).

Applicants must identify consultants, service providers, or other outside experts, paid or unpaid, who helped prepare the FCC Form 461 or 465, in the “Declaration of Assistance” section of the form. Required information includes: the consulting firm name, street address, city, state, and zip code; consulting firm telephone number; and consulting firm email address. The HCP must also describe the nature of the relationship it has with any consultant or other outside expert identified in its declaration of assistance.

Starting in FY2021, service providers will have to include a declaration of assistance when approving invoices and describe the nature of the relationship they have with a consultant, vendor, or outside expert who aids them in the preparation of their application.

Prohibitions for Consultants and Other Third Parties

RHC program rules prohibit consultants and other third parties with an ownership interest, sales commission arrangement, or other financial stake with respect to a bidding service provider from performing any of the following functions on behalf of the applicant:

  • Preparing, signing, or submitting the FCC Form 461 or FCC Form 465 (Description of Services Requested & Certification Form), including supporting documentation,
    • This includes preparing a description of desired services;
  • Serving as a consortium leader or other point of contact on behalf of the applicant,
  • Being involved in the development of the competitive bidding evaluation criteria, or
  • Participating in the bid evaluation or service provider selection process.

Gift Rule

Beginning February 1, for FY2020, RHC program applicants and their consultants, if any, are prohibited from soliciting or accepting gifts from service providers.  The new requirement, modeled after E-Rate’s gift rule, specifically prohibits an RHC program applicant and/or its consultant from directly or indirectly soliciting or accepting anything of value (including meals, tickets to sporting events or trips) from a service provider.


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.