E-rate 471 Step 1: Selecting Your Vendors

February 24, 2014

After the Form 470 is posted, there is a mandatory 28 day (minimum) waiting period during which vendors may submit proposals to you for consideration and/or contact you for more information relating to the services you listed on your Form 470. Then, on the 29th day that your Form 470 was posted or after, you may select a vendor, sign a contract (unless purchasing a MTM service) and submit the Form 471/Item 21 attachments.

If contacted by a vendor with specific questions related to a service listed on your 470, applicants are required to provide relevant information to prospective vendors so they may submit solid proposals for your consideration. Applicants should not simply ignore these inquiries as it would be a violation of the E-rate competitive bidding requirements and applicants are encourage to keep a log of all vendor inquiries and your responses to these inquiries. However, generic emails from vendors saying that the service provider can provide the general type of service requested, or e-mails from vendors that say, “I saw your 470 XXX, please call me to discuss your needs” are not considered good faith responses to a Form 470 posting and can be considered ‘spam’ and ignored by the applicant. In addition, inquiries from “brokers” or mass e-mails that are not specific to your 470 are not considered legitimate inquiries by the SLD.

1) What should we do if we 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 contact one or more service providers to solicit a bid(s) or 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 get one bid, you must make sure it’s cost effective.

2) What should we do if our existing vendor did not submit a bid?
Unless you have strict bidding guidelines outlined in an RFP, you may use a recent invoice from your existing provider as a bid response and evaluate that invoice with the other bids received.

3) Do we have to select the lowest-cost bid?
No. You are just required to select the lowest responsible bid, with price of eligible services being the most heavily weighted factor. Keep in mind that price of eligible services has to be the most heavily weighted factor, which means that if you have 3 criteria that you judged the proposals on, 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
- minority business status
- in-state preference
- existing relationship with school
- references from other school customers
- cost of ineligible services/equipment (such as new cell phones required to run on vendor’s network)
- staff time required to change IP addresses, etc.

Two sample bid evaluation worksheets (here and here) are attached and may be used as templates (be sure to fill-in your own evaluation criteria and weighting system). Please note that in all E-rate audits thus far, applicants are expected to have either a memo to file indicating no bids were received, or a bid evaluation worksheet showing how they selected their vendors. In addition, the new SPIN change procedures require applicants wishing to switch vendors to submit a copy of their bid evaluation worksheet to prove that you have selected the vendor with the next highest score in your Form 470 evaluation process.

4) Are you required to respond to vendors that contact you for the first time after the 28-day waiting period?
No. But you may do so as long as you afford all vendors the same opportunity.

5) Are you required to meet with vendors?
No. Applicants are not required to meet with vendors or view product demonstrations.

6) Is there anything we can do during this 28 day waiting period?

a) You are permitted to reach out to vendors and encourage them to submit proposals in response to your 470 posting.
b) Begin your Form 471 online by completing Blocks 1, 4 and 6. Then when you select your vendors, you can just complete Block 5 (there are no longer Blocks 2 and 3). Don’t forget to save your Form 471 number and security code when you create your application so you can return and finish it later using the ‘Continue Incomplete’ feature. It also will enable you to submit your Item 21 attachments online.
c) If you didn’t electronically certify your Form 470, be sure you sign/mail a paper certification to USAC.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at jtschell@comcast.net. Next messages? Signing Contracts and Submitting your 471 and Item 21 Attachments.

– Julie

Julie Tritt Schell
PA E-rate Coordinator

717-730-7133 – o
717-730-9060 – f

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