After deciding your network upgrade needs based on the infrastructure and educational goals your team agreed on, your next step is the purchasing process. If you are using the FCC’s E-Rate funding for any portion of your network upgrade, make sure you understand the complete terms and conditions of utilizing the funds, in addition to any state or local regulations.
Additionally, if the Form 470 narrative box is not enough to adequately describe your needs, then it is advisable to write an RFP even if it is not required.
There are a few guidelines you may want to follow in order to build a good working relationship with your potential supplier.
By issuing an RFI before official procurement, you can identify which providers offer service in your area and get an overview of their solutions and service offerings. This will also generate interest and create competition for your future RFP. Any information supplied in an RFI is non-binding and the process is not for formal procurement.
A good timeline is to post an RFI at the start of the school year and leave it open for a month. This will give you 2-4 weeks to review responses, write your RFP, and post the RFP by late Fall.
Note that E-rate has no rules or requirements about issuing an RFI, so the only requirements to follow are those laid out by your local and state procurement laws. EducationSuperHighway has compiled an RFI template and examples:
For Category 2, there are some extra considerations and tasks before writing an RFP.
REMINDER: If a vendor submits any questions about the RFP and you answer them, all questions and answers must be publicly posted as an addendum to your RFP. This addendum also restarts the 28-day Form 470 window. Failure to post questions and answers publicly or failure to wait 28 days after posting is a violation of fair and competitive bidding. This can result in the denial of a funding request.