On December 16, 2021, the FCC released the full text of a rulemaking proceeding considering changes to the E-rate program competitive bidding regulations. The stated goals of the proceeding is to streamline the E-rate bidding requirements, strengthen the integrity of the E-rate program, prevent improper payments, and decrease the risk of fraud, waste and abuse.
The rule making process allows for public comments and reply comments to be submitted. This is intended to provide information on the public record that will inform the FCC’s final action, if any. Below is a partial list of items for which the FCC is requesting public comment and considering action:
- Mandating that USAC manage procurement for all schools and libraries who participate in the E-rate program. This would replace local procurement processes and procedures. USAC would receive bids and control the bidding process for any contracts related to the E-rate program.
- Limiting applicants’ access to bids until after the 28-day allowable contract date waiting period.
- Requiring that applicants submit vendor selection documents, such as scoring sheets and correspondence, with their Form 471 funding applications.
The FCC is considering July 1, 2023, as the start date for the new bidding regulations. This would allow time for USAC to develop a bidding platform. State and local governments would also need at least this much time to modify their bidding statutes to grant USAC authority to receive bids and manage the process on behalf of local authorities.
Comments will be due within 60-days of publication of the rulemaking in the Federal Register. Reply Comments will be due 30-days thereafter.
The full text of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is available here.