Category 2 Bidding Rules for PA Non-Public Schools and Libraries

November 16, 2021

Attached: Category 2 Eligibility & Form 470-Bidding Guide – Non Public Schools and Libraries

~ C2 Eligibility and Form 470 Filing Guide Attached ~

Category 2 E-rate funding covers the equipment and related services that transport data within schools and libraries, such as wireless access points, routers, switches, and wiring, subject to a 5-year budget cap.  Competitive bidding rules related to Category 2 funding for PA nonpublic schools and libraries applicants mirrors the E-rate requirements exactly as these entity types are not subject to the additional requirements under the PA public procurement code. The following message outlines those bidding requirements for PA nonpublic schools and libraries and a Category 2 Eligibility and Form 470 Filing Guide is attached.

General C2 Bidding Reminders for All Applicants (public and non-public):

  1. E-rate rules require applicants that include a specific model number or manufacturer’s name to also include the words “or equivalent” on their Form 470 and RFP/PEPPM mini-bid documents and then evaluate equivalent products that are bid.  Applicants may state that such equipment must be compatible and interoperable with the school/library’s existing equipment (in which case the existing equipment should be identified).
  2. E-rate rules require that any bid disqualification reasons be stated in the State and Local Procurement Requirements of the Form 470/RFP or PEPPM mini-bid documents.  Disqualification reasons must be yes/no (either proposals complied or they did not).
  3. USAC requires applicants to consider all bids received up until the date you conduct your bid evaluation if your Form 470 or RFP/mini-bid don’t list a specific due date.  This is different from previously understood guidance which was that vendors should consider the 28th day after the 470 is posted as the default deadline to submit bids.  Therefore, it is extremely important that you state a deadline for vendors to submit proposals (which, of course, must be on or after the 28-day waiting period).  I suggest the following language:  “Deadline for vendor proposals is [XXXXXXX] at noon.  We reserve the right to reject late-submitted proposals.  Proposals must be e-mailed to the Form 470 contact unless otherwise noted.”
  4. Because USAC requires a full 28-days after vendor questions are answered or new information is provided, I am strongly recommending that applicants provide vendors with 2 weeks to ask questions, answer those questions within 2 days, and then have the bid due date be 29-days after the questions are answered.  This will ensure full compliance with the E-rate bidding rules.  For example, if you post a Form 470 on December 1, make the deadline for vendor questions be December 15, issue answers to vendor questions (by uploading with the existing Form 470/RFP in EPC) by December 17, then make vendor bids due January 12.
  5. The FCC prohibits the use of Universal Service funding, including E-rate funds, to purchase equipment and services from companies deemed a national security risk.  Be certain that you do not consider any proposals that include either Huawei or ZTE equipment.
  6. E-rate rules prohibit applicants from contacting potential vendors prior to bidding to seek an equipment list.  Service providers are allowed to answer general questions about the products and services they sell in response to applicant inquiries, but they may not prepare any part of a RFP or spec sheet/bill of materials that will be used by the applicant for conducting a competitive bid procurement.
  7. Applicants must have a signed contract for all Category 2 funding requests before the Form 471 is filed.  This can be as simple as a signed vendor quote as long as it contains this information:

– Contract signing date (must be on or before the Form 471 submission date).

– Term of contract (4/1/2022 – 9/30/2023 for equipment purchases).

– List of equipment/quantities/prices (or services) and installation costs.

– Whether you want the equipment/services to be contingent upon E-rate funding approval.

Recommended Timeline:  The Form 471 filing window dates have not yet been announced but the window is expected to be open from mid- January – mid-late March, 2022.  Because non-public schools and libraries often don’t have a local requirement to first obtain board approval prior to contract signing, these entities can be more flexible with when their bidding process begins.  I recommend releasing the Form 470 by mid-December, but no later than the first week in January, with the intention of conducting the bid evaluation and signing a vendor contract in February and submitting the Form 471 in early March.

If you have any questions related to the information contained in this message, please don’t hesitate to contact me at jtschell@comcast.net.

– Julie

Julie Tritt Schell
Pennsylvania E-rate Coordinator
717-730-7133 – o
jtschell@comcast.net
www.e-ratepa.org

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