The Schools and Libraries Division Dec. 5 posted an advisory on its Web site, warning E-rate applicants that their funding requests for Internet access could be jeopardized if their Form 470 applications had specified that they wanted to purchase a service that bundled in services, such as filtering, caching and firewalls, that were otherwise ineligible for support.
The SLD noted that under its rules, applicants can select an Internet access service that includes ineligible services if it is determined to be "the most cost-effective means for obtaining Internet access." Under the rules, applicants are supposed to evaluate cost-effectiveness without considering the benefits of ineligible features.
The SLD said that applicants that require bidders to bundle ineligible services could limit the pool of acceptable bidders in a manner that would contravene the conditions spelled out in the eligible services list. The SLD said it was putting applicants on notice that by including such conditions in a Request for Proposal, their funding requests would be considered ineligible for support.
In the past, the SLD has generally given applicants wide latitude to specify their technology needs. Applicants have been able to request ineligible services and products are part of an RFP or Form 470 application as long as they were careful to exclude those services from their funding requests. In addition, the SLD has taken the position that applicants can specify manufacturers' brands when they post Form 470s, as long as the vendor did not exert inappropriate control over the district's technology planning, technology choices or bidding processes.