Schools and libraries are releasing requests for bids and proposals at a record pace for FY2016. In fact, between now and April 1, there is likely to be another 4,000 or 5,000 Form 470s submitted. That’s about 15% of all the RFPs – and they are just now being posted.

If you are one of those about to release an RFP, or if you are getting ready to award a contract, here are three tips to increase your success.

Know the rules
It is ironic that most E-rate training these days involves learning the EPC labyrinth, and has little, or nothing, to do with E-rate regulations. But there is no substitute for knowing the rules. After all, despite its formidable role in the process, EPC is not intended to replace or change the FCC regulations.

Here are a few important, timeless reminders about key E-rate rules and regulations:

  • Always follow state and local competitive bidding rules.
  • Promote fair and open competition.
  • Wait 28 days before awarding any contracts.
  • Keep all bids and vendor selection documentation.
    (This article is as relevant today as when we first published it in 2009.)
  • Enter into a binding agreement prior to submitting funding requests.

For more tips, see this article from 2012. Although the dates have changed, the guidance remains the same. Know the E-rate rules.

Know EPC
You, or your consultant, will have to properly enter information into USAC’s EPC portal. There is no getting around that fact. As quickly as possible, you need to get up to speed. Here are two things that will help:

  • Review FFL’s quick guide to using EPC.
  • Read the 97-page USAC E-rate Productivity Center manual.

Know Your Schedule
The FY2016 filing deadlines are looming. Even if USAC extends the filing window like they did last year, we are only a few weeks away from the deadline for posting Form 470s and submitting Form 471 funding requests. We are at the stage where getting bids reviewed and contracts properly awarded in a timely fashion becomes mission critical and increasingly difficult. Something as seemingly insignificant as a Board member’s vacation schedule could derail an application and lead to a significant reduction in E-rate funding.

*****

A failure to properly manage the competitive bidding process is one of the most common reasons that schools and libraries miss out on E-rate discounts. As you approach the FY2016 filing deadline, take the time to study the rules, familiarize yourself with EPC, and pay close attention to the timing of events.