COVID-19 Update: USAC remains open for business—Washington, DC office closed. Learn more about USF program responses

Step 2: Prepare For Competitive Bidding and Request Services

After determining that you are eligible, the next steps are to identify the services you need and develop the evaluation criteria that you will use to assess service provider bids. This is done through competitive bidding, which ensures all service providers have the opportunity to provide the requested services. The FCC Form 465 (Description of Services Requested and Certification Form) is what you will submit to USAC. It is used to determine eligibility and to request services from service providers.

Note: This process differs from the HCF Program, where eligibility and requests for services are completed through two separate forms—the FCC Form 460 (for eligibility) and FCC Form 461 (for request for services).

You may submit your FCC Form 465 one year before the funding year begins (e.g. for FY2021, you can submit your FCC Form 465 as early as July 1, 2020). Once your FCC Form 465 is approved, it must be posted on the USAC public website for a minimum of 28 days before you can select a service provider and sign a contract. All posted services are available on the USAC public website for service providers to view and download. Service providers interested in providing your site with the requested services will respond to your posting with a bid demonstrating how they meet your evaluation criteria.

You must file the FCC Form 465 and competitively bid unless you meet one of the competitive bidding exemptions. To learn more, visit the exemptions page.

Requesting Services with the FCC Form 465

After preparing bid evaluation criteria, you can file the FCC Form 465. The FCC Form 465 form allows you to describe your service needs and request bids from service providers. You must submit the FCC Form 465 through My Portal, the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program’s online application management system. It is helpful to have prepared your evaluation criteria and supporting documentation prior to completing the FCC Form 465 in My Portal, more information about those sections of the form are below.

Remember, the FCC Form 465 is also used to determine eligibility. For more information about eligibility and the information needed to complete that part of the form, please see Step 1.

Selecting Services

When selecting services for FY2021 and forward, you are required to list each service requested on the FCC Form 465.

To comply with a fair and open competitive bidding process, the FCC Form 465 should describe the services the site needs with enough detail so that interested service providers can submit complete bids.  You should select the general categories of services needed on the FCC Form 465, including the minimum and maximum bandwidths, and if further explanation is required, include a Request for Proposal (RFP).

Supporting Documentation

Include the following documentation with your FCC Form 465 submission:

  • Bid evaluation criteria and a scoring matrix demonstrating how you will choose a service provider
  • Bid disqualification factors (if applicable)
  • Declaration of assistance
  • Request for Proposal (if applicable)

You must not agree to receive services or sign a contract with a service provider until the Allowable Contract Selection Date (ACSD). If you select a service provider prior to your ACSD, USAC will deny your funding request.

Developing Bid Evaluation Criteria

The bid evaluation criteria you develop will determine how you will evaluate the bids you receive from services providers and must be included on the FCC Form 465. The bid evaluation criteria should include the factors that you deem most important for your site to provide health care.

You must demonstrate how you will choose the most “cost-effective” bid, based on the FCC’s definition of “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 (HCP) deems relevant to choosing a method of providing the required health care services.”

Evaluation criteria commonly included on the FCC Form 465:

  • Cost
  • Technical support
  • Previous experience with service provider
  • Quality of transmission
  • Service provider to provide a single point of contact

Once you have developed your evaluation criteria, you should assign a weight to each criterion in the order of importance. For instance, if cost is the most important criterion, you can assign a weight of 40 percent to cost, with other criteria receiving a lesser weight. The total weight of all of the criteria must equal 100 percent.

You must use the criteria that you choose and list on the FCC Form 465 to evaluate and score each bid when selecting a vendor.

You must evaluate all bids received and select the most cost-effective method of providing the requested services.

Minimum Requirements

For FY2021 and forward, you will be required to list the minimum requirements for each criteria listed. For example, if one of your bid evaluation factors is “Prior Experience” you could list “at least three references within the state” as a minimum requirement. Service providers responding to your bid would be required to include the three references in their bid to be considered.

Evaluation Example

The following example meets program guidelines and lists minimum requirements where applicable:

Factor Weight Minimum Requirement
Cost 60%
Prior Experience 20% At least 3 references within the state when providing similar services
Technical Support 20% Single Point of Contact
Total: 100%

Disqualification Factors

For FY2021, you are required to list any disqualification factors that you will use to remove a bid from consideration.

Please keep in mind program rules when listing disqualification factors. For example, a factor could be “will not work with vendors who use equipment or services from covered companies.” Which would eliminate any service providers or vendors violating the FCC Order 19-121 Supply Chain Order. The Order adopts a new rule that no universal service support may be used to purchase, obtain, maintain, improve, modify, or otherwise support any equipment or services produced or provided by companies that pose a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or the communications supply chain. The FCC initially designated Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation as companies covered by this Order.

Posting Information

As a reminder, your FCC Form 465 must be posted to the USAC website for a minimum of 28 days You have the option to bid more than 28 days by submitting the FCC Form 465 again for posting. You may not enter into any service agreement with a service provider until the minimum 28 day bidding period is complete.

Requests for Proposal (Optional)

A request for proposal (RFP) is supporting documentation that describes a project and requests services in detail so that potential bidders understand the scope, location, and any other service requirements. Not every FCC Form 465 requires an RFP, but it can provide an opportunity for you to specify your business needs and service requirements in more detail.

You must submit an RFP if it is required to issue an RFP under applicable state, Tribal, or local procurement rules or regulations.

If you do use an RFP for competitive bidding (per requirements or voluntarily), you must include it with your FCC Form 465 submission.  It is the sole responsibility of the applicant to ensure that its request for services and any accompanying documentation comply with all RHC Program rules and applicable to any state, Tribal, or local procurement rules or regulations. USAC does not approve RFPs. To learn more, visit the Request for Proposal page.

Things to Remember

Conduct a fair and open competitive bidding process: All potential bidders and service providers must have access to the same information and must be treated in the in the same manner. Potential bidders and service providers are prohibited from (1) assisting with an HCP’s FCC Form 465; (2) being involved in setting the bid evaluation criteria; and (3) participating in the bid evaluation or vendor selection process.

Avoid conflicts of interest: Before developing bid evaluation criteria, be sure to avoid potential conflicts of interest that could result in the denial of funding.  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).

RHC Program rules also prohibit service providers that are submitting bids from having any involvement in the competitive bidding process and/or the submission of the FCC Form 465.

Exercise caution during contract modifications: Some contract modifications require that you go through a new competitive bidding process before adopting the modification. View the contract modifications page to see if the change(s) you are requesting requires a new competitive bidding process.

 

The material on these web pages 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.