Conducting Bid Evaluations for E-rate Projects

January 11, 2024

Attached: Bid Evaluation Matrix Template

~ Sample Bid Evaluation Matrix Attached ~

By now I hope you have all posted your Form 470s (or released your PEPPM mini-bids), waited at least 29 days for either the 470 release date or the last date an RFP amendment was uploaded into EPC (whichever is later), and have either concluded your bid evaluations or are ready to conduct your bid evaluations.  This message is broken into 3 sections – preparing to evaluate, conducting the bid evaluation, and what to do after the bid evaluation.  Also, is a sample bid evaluation matrix, containing two tabs – a blank matrix for you to complete, and a completed sample to use as a guide.  Each procurement should have its own bid evaluation and I recommend that you use a simple formula to assign weighted cost points (more on that below) when you have more than one bid evaluation factor.


· How do you determine your Allowable Contract Date and/or view a copy of your submitted Form 470? 
The Allowable Contract Date (ACD) is the 29th day after you hit submit on your Form 470, and is the first date that you are permitted to hit submit on your Form 471 (29 days include weekends and holidays).  To find out your exact ACD, you must log into EPC (, scroll to the bottom of your Landing Page to find ‘FCC Forms and Post-Commit Requests’, select Form 470, Funding Year 2024 and click on the relevant Form 470 #.   The search results will show Allowable Contract Date under Application Information.  To see a copy of the actual Form 470, click on Generated Documents on the left toolbar.  USAC also will e-mail you an automatic reminder when your ACD has arrived.

– Important Note: If you uploaded any RFP addenda, vendor Q/A, etc. to your 470, and they included any new services, entities, or a change or clarify the services/equipment/scope, you must extend your deadline so vendors have a full 28-days to submit bid responses with the new information.  Unfortunately, the EPC Allowable Contract Date does not automatically update when an addendum is uploaded, simply because the system has no way of knowing if the information in the addendum has made significant changes to the RFP.  This must be a manual calculation.  But please don’t forget to do this as many applicants have been denied for making RFP changes and not extending the due date.  If you are unsure if your changes are significant, please ask me.

· Are you required to respond to vendors that contact you for the first time after the 28-day waiting period?
This depends.  If you included a due date in your Form 470 or RFP, you are not required to accept bids or respond to vendors who contact you after the due date.  But you may do so as long as you afford all vendors the same opportunity, and as long as it is permitted by your local bidding rules.  If your Form 470 or RFP was silent on a bid due date, the new USAC guidance is that you must continue to accept vendor bids until you conduct your bid evaluation.
· What should you do if you received no bids for a service listed on our 470?
If you don’t receive any bids after your 28-day waiting period, you can: a) contact one or more service providers to solicit a bid(s), or b) if it’s an existing service, you can choose to remain with your incumbent provider and use a recent invoice as the bid response.  You are not required to seek more than one bid, but if you only receive one bid, you must make sure it’s cost effective.  The only exception to this is for Category 2 equipment which costs between $12,200 – 22,500 where the applicant has not released a formal RFP (and is not using PEPPM) in which case PA procurement law requires public school entities to seek 3 telephonic bids (does not apply to services).


· Are you required to select the lowest-cost bid? 
This depends on whether you’re bidding equipment or services, and whether you’re a public school, nonpublic school or library.

…SERVICES (ALL schools/libraries) and EQUIPMENT for nonpublic schools & libraries:  You are NOT required to select the lowest bid.  You ARE required to select the most cost-effective proposal with price of eligible services being the most heavily weighted factor (which means that if you have 3 evaluation criteria, price of eligible services must be at least 34% of the total weight.)  Many other factors besides price may be considered; for example (this is not an exhaustive list):

- vendor qualifications/experience

- vendor owns facilities or is leasing from a 3rd party

- quality of vendor proposal
- minority business status

- staff knowledge of equipment manufacturer

- existing relationship with school

- references from other customers

- staff time required to change IP addresses, update firewalls, etc.
- cost of DDOS mitigation (internet)
- ability to meet July 1 service start date

…EQUIPMENT for public schools:  It depends: 

– IF…you released a 470/RFP, PA procurement law requires public school entities to select the lowest responsible, qualified bid.  You are not permitted to consider additional bid evaluation criteria as suggested above; however, you are permitted to outline strict bid disqualification criteria in your 470/RFP that vendors must meet in order to be considered a qualified bid.  The disqualification criteria must be able to be answered in a Yes/No fashion (such as: do they have a SPIN, is their equipment compatible and interoperable with the District’s existing equipment, do they receive good references, do they have E-rate experience, have they been in business for X number of years, have they submitted all of the required documents, etc.).

– IF… you released a PEPPM Mini-Bid (whereby you do not release a 470/RFP), you are NOT required to select low bid and your evaluation standard is based on the E-rate “most cost-effective proposal” standard.  You and are permitted to consider additional bid evaluation factors just as you are with services.  In addition, you also are permitted to outline strict bid disqualification criteria in your PEPPM Mini-Bid that vendors must meet in order to be considered a qualified bid, as described in the preceding paragraph.

· Can you consider ineligible costs in the bid evaluation?

Yes, with conditions.  E-rate rules require the cost of eligible services to be the most heavily weighted factor, but you can include a separate bid evaluation factor that considers ineligible costs.  The evaluation of the ineligible cost component just cannot be weighted more heavily than the eligible cost.  For example, to consider the costs of DDOS mitigation from an ISP bidder, this must be considered as a separate bid evaluation factor and the cost of the DDOS service cannot be lumped in with the most heavily weighted factor which must be the cost of E-rate eligible equipment/services.

· Do you have to create a bid evaluation matrix?
Although E-rate doesn’t (yet) require bid evaluations to be submitted with your E-rate funding request, applicants are required to have a written bid evaluation and provide it upon request.  In all E-rate audits, PQA Assessments and SPIN Change Requests, applicants are required to provide the bid evaluation worksheet showing how they selected their vendors (SPIN change procedures require applicants wishing to switch vendors to submit a copy of their bid evaluation worksheet to prove that they have selected the vendor with the next highest score in your Form 470 evaluation process).  Also, the required Contracts Module in EPC requires you to list the # of bids received which is easy to determine if you have created a good bid evaluation matrix for each procurement.

· How do you score the cost in a bid evaluation?
The fairest way to score cost is to calculate a weight based on the difference between a proposal’s cost and the lowest proposal’s cost.  For example, you would divide the second lowest cost by the lowest cost to assign a weight %.  Then that weight % would be multiplied by the total available points assigned to cost.  Attached is a bid evaluation template which shows how the calculations work.  Be sure to fill-in your own evaluation criteria and scoring system.  Formula: (proposal cost/lowest proposal cost) * points assigned to cost category.

· Are you required to list disqualified vendors in the bid evaluation matrix?

This is not a requirement, but it’s a good idea to list the vendor name and the reason for disqualification that cites back to the RFP disqualification reason or explains how the proposal was not complete (no need to list the proposal cost).

· What other information should you include in the bid evaluation?
I think it’s a good idea to have a “notes” section at the bottom that provides some reasoning why scores were awarded, even if it’s just a few words.


· Are you required to keep the losing proposals?

Yes!  You must keep the winning AND losing proposals for a period of 10 years from the last date to receive service, which is basically 11 years.

· Are you required to notify the losing vendors?
It’s not an E-rate requirement, but you may wish to do so after the winning bidder has been selected so vendors know where they stand.
· Are you required to release information related to your bid evaluation to vendors that make a request?

This is not an E-rate requirement, but for PA public schools, it is considered public information and must be provided if someone submits a formal Right to Know request through the appropriate process at the school.  Such information is not required to be released until after the formal approval has been given (board vote or contract signing).

Happy Evaluating!

– Julie

Julie Tritt Schell
Pennsylvania E-rate Coordinator
717-730-7133 – o

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