The FCC’s Fifth Report and Order directed USAC to submit to the Commission a list summarizing “all current USAC administrative procedures.” The USAC procedures that were submitted on October 31, 2011 have been updated to include information from the FCC’s Sixth Report & Order, released in September 2010. The procedures also reflect new guidance provided by the FCC over the past year.
Procedural changes from the FCC’s Sixth Report & Order include:
SPIN Changes – “…the Commission clarified this rule and explained that once a contract is signed for goods and services, an applicant may not change the service provider unless: “(1) there is a legitimate reason to change providers (e.g., breach of contract or the service provider is unable to perform) and (2) the newly selected service provider received the next highest point value in the original bid evaluation, assuming there was more than one bidder.”
Technology Plans –“…the Commission rules were amended to eliminate the technology plan requirements for all Priority-One (Telecommunications and Internet Access) funding requests and to retain the requirement for Priority-Two (Internal Connections and Basic Maintenance of Internal Connections) funding. Additionally, the revised rules eliminate the requirement that applicants demonstrate they have a budget sufficient to acquire and support the non-discounted elements of the plan.”
New procedures tied to other FCC guidance:
Selective Review Multi-Tier Bid Evaluation Process – In August 2011, the FCC granted an appeal submitted by the Baltimore City School District. In its appeal decision, the FCC provided additional guidance and clarification for applicants who utilize a multi-tier bid evaluation process. As a result of this guidance, USAC’s administrative procedures have been updated to state that:
“…for applicants who use a multi-tier bid evaluation process to select their service provider(s), an initial evaluation round to determine if bidders’ proposals adequately meet the minimum specifications outlined in the applicant’s Form 470 and/or RFP is allowed and this round does not need to include price as a factor. However, price must be the primary factor in selecting a qualified vendor. Price must be weighted the highest among each of the evaluation criteria in a multi-tiered vendor selection process. For example, if price is weighted with 15 points, no other category, no matter which tier it is in, can be worth more than 14 points.”
The USAC procedures highlighted are not rules explicitly laid out by the FCC, but are nonetheless critical to understand and follow for successful E-rate applications.