USAC has submitted to the FCC detailed information about the procedures in place to administer the E-rate program. In the FCC's Fifth Schools and Libraries Report and Order, USAC was directed to submit to the Commission all USAC administrative procedures that they use to make E-rate funding decisions that are not explicitly stated in FCC rules. The USAC procedures also highlight specific statutory requirements that the procedures further as well as outline how they protect against waste, fraud, and abuse.
The SLD is now prohibiting applicants from having a “multi-tier bid evaluation process”. Many applicants have a two-stage process where vendors much pass the first stage based on certain criteria and then the second stage are expected to submit pricing based on their proposals. The SLD competitive bidding procedures now state that price of the eligible solutions must be the highest weighed factor at each state of the bid evaluation process, which, in essence, eliminates this two tiered option.
As applicants are starting their procurement and posting Form 470’s to the SLD website, here are other tips and reminders that you should consider:
- A technology plan draft must be written, including the five required elements, prior to posting a Form 470. The technology plan must be approved before the start of service. As a best practice, Funds for Learning recommends verifying that the draft plan does include a date (MM/DD/YYYY) to demonstrate compliance with this requirement.
- Once a Form 470 is posted to the SLD website, do not sign a contract with a vendor before the allowable contract date. A Form 470 must be made publicly available for 28 calendar days before selecting a vendor and signing a contract.
- The Form 470 should be certified before the Form 471 window closes. It is considered a best practice for all applicants to immediately certify the Form 470 upon submitting your Form 470 online. The same holds true if an applicant submits a paper copy of the Form 470. If you submit a paper certification, Funds for Learning recommends that you submit using some form of tracked mail that can be retained for your records.
- If your school or library is seeking tariff or month-to-month services, you must post a Form 470 each funding year and go through the E-rate procurement process.
- If your school or library is interested in pursuing a written contract for the services requested on your Form 470, you must select that option on the Form 470. In addition, you should also indicate if your school or library is interested in considering a multi-year contract, or a contract which allows for voluntary extensions. If you have an existing multi-year contract for the services you are seeking that was competitively bid via a Form 470 and the E-rate procurement process in a previous funding year, you do not need to file a Form 470 for that service until the contract expires. However, you still need to file a Form 471 to request funding.
- If you plan on releasing an RFP it is important to alert possible vendors by indicating that there is an RFP on your Form 470. The Form 470 will provide information to the service provider on how the RFP can be obtained, typically through a web site or a contact person. Ideally, the RFP and Form 470 should be posted at the same time, and both must be made publicly available for 28 calendar days.
- Be advised that E-rate vendors should not be listed as the optional technical contact on a Form 470. It is appropriate to talk with potential vendors about technology trends; however, E-rate applicants should be driving the procurement process, not an E-rate vendor. It is a competitive bidding violation for an E-rate vendor to be listed on the Form 470 in this capacity.
- The FCC has established that cost for the eligible services must be the highest weighted factor in the evaluation process. Typically, the customer's local rules and regulations will shape the remaining evaluation criteria. For example, other factors that can be considered are prior experience, personnel qualifications, management capability, local vendor, etc, but price (cost) for the eligible services must be weighted the highest.
To view the SLD Administrative Procedures click here.