Following its December meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it approved a proposal seeking comment on improving transparency and efficiency in the competitive bidding process for the E-Rate program. The FCC has now released the official Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, laying out the process and deadlines for submitting comment on the E-Rate bidding process.
The E-Rate Program provides financial support to help schools and libraries purchase affordable, high-speed broadband services and Internet connections to connect students and library patrons to the Internet.
In the lengthy proposal, the FCC laid out the draft of proposed rules that it is seeking comment on. Specifically, the FCC is proposing to amend Part 54 of Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations in a few ways:
- Provide a new, clarified explanation of the competitive bidding requirements.
- Updating the process through which providers of services submit their response to a request for service. Specifically, providers are no longer allowed to respond to emails from those seeking services and instead must submit their response via a secured website portal. It also provides a timeline for how long requesting entities must wait before committing to a service provider.
- Provides additional rules about how requesting entities and service providers may communicate during the competitive bidding process. Specifically, limiting all communication to the secure web portal and mandating that “all potential program bidders and service providers must have access to the same information and must be treated in the same manner throughout the procurement process.”
- After selecting a service provider, requesting entities will now be required to submit documentation to support their certifications that they have carefully considered and selected the most cost-effective bid with price being the primary factor considered, including the bid evaluation criteria, and documents specified by the FCC.
The FCC announced that the comment period will run for 60 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register. The reply comment period will run for 90 days after the FCC responds to comments on via a posting in the Federal Register.