If you submitted an FCC Form 470 for File Along with Me on the same day we wrote about it here on the blog (March 3), your form has been posted for more than the required 28 day minimum, and you can begin evaluating the bids you received and select a service provider.
At this point, you are here in the application process:
Select a service provider
Start with the evaluation matrix you constructed in Post #17: Set your Evaluation Criteria. You’ll need to evaluate each bid you received, like writing a scorecard for each one. Then select the vendor with the highest overall score and, thus, most “cost effective” offer (more on this below).
If you don’t receive any bids after you’ve waited the required 28 days, you can solicit bids from service providers. You can also choose to “piggyback” off of other applicants in your local area (most schools/libraries do not use piggybacking). More guidance about piggyback clauses was published in the SL News Brief on March 25, 2016.
You can purchase services from the vendor in any of these ways:
- Tariff – Services listed at specific prices that have been approved by state public utility commissions. An example is “basic landline service — $12.40/month.”
- Month-to-month – Services billed monthly and not provided under a contract or tariff.
- Contract – Fixed prices and dates under a binding agreement between you and the vendor. Sign the contract with the vendor and add it to EPC before you start the next form, FCC Form 471 (more on this below). You can learn more about contracts on the E-rate Program website.
- Multi-year contract – A contract that is in effect for more than one year.
- State master contract – A contract that was competitively bid by a state agency, and is available for entities to use. You may still need to conduct a “mini bid” for the services. Learn more in Post #18: Let’s talk state master contracts and mini-bids.
“Cost effectiveness” and price
When you’re evaluating service providers, remember that you should choose the most “cost effective offer,” i.e., the best value for your school/library.
Price is important, but you are not required to choose the lowest-price offer. In practice, this means that price must be the most heavily-weighted factor in your evaluation. But the combined scores of other factors can outweigh price. Learn more about selection factors and scoring in Post #17: Set your evaluation criteria.
You must fairly consider and evaluate all of the bids you receive. Bids can only be disqualified/excluded if it’s for a reason you specifically mentioned on either your FCC Form 470 or request for proposal (RFP).
Upload contracts before you apply
After the contract is signed, add it to the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC). In EPC, contracts are part of your school/library profile, not the FCC Form 471 itself.
To add it to your profile:
- Log in to the E-rate Productivity Center.
- From your landing page, select the billed entity (the school/library that is a party to the contract).
- Choose “Contracts” from the left-hand menu.
- Select the “Manage Contracts” button in the upper-right corner.
- Select “My Contract Draft” from the Contract Type drop-down menu.
- Select the green button, “Add New Contract.”
- Enter information and answer questions about your contract. If you are not sure how to answer a question, hover over the blue question mark icon to see additional information.
- Optional: Upload a copy of your contract by answering “Yes” to the question, “Would you like to upload a copy of your contract?” then select the “Choose File” button at the bottom of your screen.
- Optional: Allow other schools/libraries in your local area to “piggyback,” that is, use your bid response as part of their own vendor evaluation. Selecting this option is completely up to you. Most applicants do not participate in piggybacking.
- Link the FCC Form 470 you used to open competitive bidding (called the “establishing” FCC Form 470) for the service under your contract.
- If the contract was signed this year, you can search for it within the EPC system.
- If the contract was signed before this year (e.g. the second year of a multi-year contract), manually enter the 15-digit FCC Form 470 number from the previous year. The best way to find this form number is to check your E-rate Program files and see which establishing FCC Form 470 was cited for this contract on your FY2015 FCC Form 471.
- If you purchased commercially-available business class Internet access for $3,600 or less annually (including any one-time costs such as installation) with bandwidth speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream and 10 Mbps upstream, and with basic conduit access to the Internet at those required speeds, you are exempt from posting an FCC Form 470 and may select “No” for this question.
- Answer questions about your service provider and contract dates.
- Look up the Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN), also known as the service provider’s 498 ID, using the SPIN search tool, or ask your service provider for their SPIN.
- To answer questions about the contract, reference your contract or ask your service provider for assistance.
- Enter pricing confidentiality details, if applicable.
- Most applicants cannot keep their prices confidential. If you are required to by a state/local regulation, cite it in this section.
- Confirm contract
- Once you click “Complete,” the contract cannot be updated or deleted, so double check the information! If you upload an incorrect contract, or need to make an update/add an addendum, leave the old contract as it is and upload a new contract in addition to it.
Once your contract is uploaded to your profile, you’ll be able to reference it on your FCC Form 471.
A series of three webinars are available about this topic, with more details, and a demonstration of how to upload a contract. The presentation is called “How to Complete Basic and Entity Information to Prepare for Filing FCC Form 471,” and versions are available for schools and school districts, libraries and library systems, and consortia.
Keep all documentation!
Remember to keep all related documentation about the competitive bidding and service provider selection process for at least 10 years, including but not limited to:
- FCC Form 470 and request for proposal (RFP),
- Winning bids,
- Losing bids,
- Evaluation matrix,
- Correspondence with service providers, and
- Signed contracts.
Now that you’ve selected a service provider and added the contract to your profile, we’ll begin the walkthrough of FCC Form 471, Description of Services Ordered and Certification Form.