Fair and open competitive bidding is the central tenant of the E-rate program. This is the time of year that most school districts and public libraries go through their procurement of E-rate goods and services. In order to start the competitive bidding process, applicants must post a Form 470 to the USAC website. Applicants must evaluate all bids for a minimum of 28 days, and price is the most-weighted factor when deciding which service provider to enter into an agreement with.
It is advisable that applicants start their competitive bidding early. Posting a Form 470 before the deadline often leads to fewer mistakes and provides more time for the applicant and service provider to negotiate a fair contract, get board approval and submit the Form 471 and Item 21 attachments. This leaves plenty of time to review and ensure that the application process was followed properly.
The FCC denied the Washington Unified School District’s procurement process appeal on Sept. 20, 2013. The district did not provide bidders with enough information on their Form 470 for service providers to respond. The appeal decision stated, “the applicant must describe the requested services with sufficient specificity to enable potential service providers to submit bids for such service…” The FCC further stated that the “…Commission has consistently required that all bidders be treated equally and that no bidders receive an unfair advantage. Failure to provide a detailed description of the desired services on the FCC Form 470 or on a publicly available RFP…undermines the framework of the competitive bidding process by suppressing fair and open competitive bidding…”
If the competitive bidding process is tainted in any way, the funding will be in jeopardy. Please start early or seek assistance from someone that has expertise in understanding the FCC’s competitive bidding and procurement regulations.