people collaborating at table

8 bids later: The power of group negotiations

The Northeast Board of Cooperative Educational Services (NE BOCES) provides technology support for 12 Colorado school districts that all needed faster, more reliable Internet access to keep up with growing demands for digital learning. For the last several years, NE BOCES has fought to bring high-speed Internet to the districts’ 4,000 students, but due to limited purchasing power, the consortium had few options.

A greater range of bids from providers could help the NE BOCES access a cost-effective solution, but the consortium is in a region with a small population and few large businesses, making it difficult to attract providers.

This was when several school districts decided to make their own procurement arrangements. Although these individual schools gained access to scalable infrastructure (fiber), the prices they ended up paying were extremely high. At some schools, they were paying in the neighborhood of $30 per Mbps, about four times more than the 2016 national average of $7 per Mbps.

 

THE TURNING POINT

The consortium’s path to better digital access took a positive turn in August 2016. Arlene Salyards, special projects coordinator for NE BOCES, met EducationSuperHighway state engagement manager Dan Runcie at a BOCES meeting.

Dan explained how NE BOCES could make use of our technical and RFP-writing resources in order to access better broadband options for their schools. As a member of the K-12 broadband steering committee, Salyards was eager to learn more.

 

THE CONSORTIUMS UNITE

Through the Kids Link Colorado initiative, EducationSuperHighway guided NE BOCES through the process of joining forces with the East Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services (EC BOCES) E-rate consortium, led by their IT Director Jarred Masterson. This integration would allow them to amplify their purchasing power and achieve better pricing for all of their school districts.

After utilizing our support tools to craft a new RFP, the consortium received eight bids in response to their RFP—far more than they had received in the past. Most importantly, the bids this time included options that were significantly more cost-effective than any previous options.

“I’m excited to say that we have had way more
responses to our RFP than we have ever had since
my position with the BOCES, probably ever.
Now the real work starts.”

– Arlene Salyards

 

A STRIKING PROGRESSION

Prior to the upgrade, NE and EC BOCES districts were paying an average of $30 per Mbps to receive between 20 and 100 Mbps of Internet access. Now, nearly every school district will be getting 1 Gbps of Internet access for less than $1 per Mbps. That’s 10-50 times greater bandwidth for about 3% of the cost.

We’re grateful to have been a part of the NE BOCES’ journey to enable greater digital learning opportunities for its schools. Learn more about how other school districts have taken action to upgrade.