Talk to your provider about how their pricing will change based on contract length or purchase size.
Providers can usually offer lower pricing with long-term contracts or a larger equipment purchase because they have more guaranteed revenue. However, since the price of bandwidth is constantly dropping, contracts over five years may not be ideal as they lock you into current pricing. Even if you get a good price with a long contract, chances are that the price you could get in three or five years will be even less.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate contract terms in addition to price.
Contract length, the service level agreement (SLA), installation fees, and termination conditions are all up for negotiation. Be sure you are comfortable with all of the language in the contract prior to signing.
If your contract includes construction, shift as much of the up-front costs from the ongoing monthly service costs (MRC) to the non-recurring costs (NRC) as possible.
Service providers have historically put up-front circuit build costs into MRC (sometimes to ensure E-rate eligibility under previous rules), significantly increasing the MRC towards the district. However, at the end of the contract term if the price is not readjusted, it can remain at a much higher than the true cost of service.
Think about how you can set your SLAs to maximize the potential for the provider to offer you a reasonable commitment without over-engineering your service levels and placing an excessive burden on them.
For example, a longer downtime that is out of school hours could be acceptable in many circumstances. By building these kinds of flexibility into your contract, your service provider may be better able to show some flexibility on price.
“If you have a discussion and nothing comes of it, then what have you lost?”
Brette Arbogast, Tech Director
Appomattox County Public Schools
Incorporate a “Time is of the Essence Clause” into contract(s) with providers
A Time Is of the Essence Clause (TOE) is language contained in a contract that specifies that a certain time or date is important. In effect, a time is of the essence clause is saying, “the times and dates specified in this agreement are vital and mandatory to the contract.” To incentivize providers to maintain the original project schedule, it is in your best interest to include a strong TOE in your contract(s), e.g. one that states that delays in the project will result in discounts of X for every week past the original time of delivery.
A final piece of negotiation can be to ask for extras.
Many vendors can throw into a deal things like a Wi-Fi site survey or training credits. These things are of very little value to them but can make a big difference for school districts managing tight budgets.