At a time in history when online connections are more important than ever, government agencies should be empowering local leaders, not interfering with their decisions. Yet, a federal agency plans to take away local control of procurement from schools and libraries who participate in the E-rate funding program. Those who do not comply with the proposed mandate will lose vital financial support, reducing the internet connections available for students and library patrons. Schools and libraries cannot afford to lose their internet access; and local staff do not have time to learn a new, duplicative bidding system.
You can help stop this federal takeover. Sign this petition and share your concerns to let the government know that your organization does not support a federalized E-rate procurement system.
E-rate funding is a mission critical source of support that provides $3 billion annually to connect 130,418 U.S. schools and libraries to the internet. Currently, program participants follow their own state and local competitive bidding rules to select vendors and negotiate service agreements. Local procurement officials lead the process, following procedures and systems that have been carefully developed and honed over decades. This current system effectively manages an estimated $752.3 billion annually.
Under proposed regulations by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), schools and libraries would be forced to create new processes and procedures and use a completely different system for their internet related purchases. In many cases, participants would be forced to violate their state and local laws to access E-rate funds. The FCC would like its program administrator, the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), to receive bids and control the procurement process for schools and libraries. Local officials would no longer receive and open bids. Instead, vendors would submit their proposals to USAC who would control access to proposals.
PETITION TO MAINTAIN LOCAL PROCUREMENT
Schools and libraries that want to maintain local control of procurement are urged to sign this petition which will be submitted to the FCC. Please include a statement of why the proposal to federalize E-rate procurement should not move forward. Here are a few sample issues you can consider:
- USAC will become the middleman in the procurement process.
- Does the use of an intermediary party simplify the process, or make it more complex?
- How will USAC manage questions from vendors about RFPs?
- With USAC managing the process, are vendors more or less likely to have well-informed proposals?
- Is the public better served by having USAC control the bidding process?
- Applicants currently have the ability to declare bids as non-responsive. In some cases, applicants have the right to return bids to vendors without even opening the proposals.
- Will applicants be forced to consider “junk” bids that do not meet the service criteria?
- Will USAC allow applicants to disqualify bids that do not include certain forms or certifications?
- Does this system establish USAC as the arbitrator of vendor selection decisions?
- There are varying regulations on the use and publication of confidential information.
- How will USAC know which information to redact or withhold from freedom of information requests?
- What assurances can USAC provide that confidential information will remain confidential?
- In some cases, there are mandatory pre-bid meetings to brief vendors on complex projects. In other cases, there are multiple stages of selection, including price negotiations, interviews, and “best and final offers.”
- How will USAC manage pre-bid meetings?
- How will USAC limit proposals to qualified and/or registered vendors?
- How will USAC manage multiple rounds of bids or negotiations?
- With USAC as the intermediary, is this process more or less likely to be successful than it currently is?
- If a bid bond or other deposit is required, will the funds be provided to USAC? If so, how?
- Applicants often have standard forms that must be signed. For example, affidavits regarding sex offenders, bidding collusion, etc.
- If paper signatures are required, how will USAC receive signed documents?
- Will USAC be responsible for scanning and cataloging these documents?
- If a school is required to maintain original copies of bids, will USAC forward that information to the school?
- Procurement departments have existing procedures and systems for their purchases.
- How does the use of a different system once-a-year for E-rate purchases impact the odds that a mistake will be made in the competitive bidding process?
- Is it duplicative of the FCC to require these applicants to use a different system? Could applicants have the option of using their existing portal?