E-Rate grants are a great way to outfit your school with the technology your students and teachers need to succeed, but it can be a little tricky to untangle when and how to apply. So we’re going to walk you through the process, starting with the first step: competitive bidding.
Actually, there’s a step before we get to competitive bidding—let’s call it Step 0: determining your eligibility. First, check to see if you’re eligible to receive E-Rate funding. Once you know, it’s time to start the competitive bidding process.
Once you have found out your eligibility, your next step is to start the competitive bidding process. You would do this by submitting an FCC Form 470. The FCC Form 470 is defined as a description of services or products being requested—AKA Request for Proposal—allowing service providers to bid on these requests.
The Form 470 is usually accessible one year prior to the start of the upcoming funding year. (For example, the form for FY 2019 would be available in FY 2018.) Remember: a funding year runs from July 1st to the following June 30th. It’s never too soon to start planning what is going to happen with your E-Rate funds.
Entities approved to run the competitive bidding process must be authorized on your behalf by submitting an LOA (letter of agency). They would be in charge of certifying the Form 470, evaluating the received bids, and negotiating with the service providers.
All services provided require a Form 470 and must be posted for no less than 28 days. This rule is in place to help ensure that the process is fair and open. When it comes to including an RFP to the Form 470, USAC does not require this. However, if your state and local procurement laws require that an RFP is included in a bidding process, then you must follow those rules and regulations as well.
Here are some tips for keeping the competitive bidding process fair and open:
- All bidders must be treated the same, meaning that you cannot only give important information to select services providers. All information must be available across the board.
- No secrets—we all know secrets never make any friends. Just as you shouldn’t keep information from certain providers, you also should never give out additional information unless you intend to supply this to all potential services providers.
- Remember that the value of free services should be subtracted from the pre-discount amount before the Form 471 is submitted into USAC for review.
When a Form 470 is certified and submitted, you will receive a Receipt Acknowledgement Letter (RAL). This letter lets you know they have received the form and that it is certified. Now you are able to make select changes to the Form 470 if needed. Changes that would be approved include editing the application name, changing the contact person—whether it is main point of contact or technical contact—and any other minor or insignificant updates to an RFP.
Now that you know how to conduct the bidding process, in the next post in this series, we’ll break down Step 2: selecting the winning service provider. Stay tuned!