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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of December 5, 2019

Title 47Chapter ISubchapter BPart 54Subpart F → §54.503


Title 47: Telecommunication
PART 54—UNIVERSAL SERVICE
Subpart F—Universal Service Support for Schools and Libraries


§54.503   Competitive bidding requirements.

(a) All entities participating in the schools and libraries universal service support program must conduct a fair and open competitive bidding process, consistent with all requirements set forth in this subpart.

Note to paragraph (a): The following is an illustrative list of activities or behaviors that would not result in a fair and open competitive bidding process: the applicant for supported services has a relationship with a service provider that would unfairly influence the outcome of a competition or would furnish the service provider with inside information; someone other than the applicant or an authorized representative of the applicant prepares, signs, and submits the FCC Form 470 and certification; a service provider representative is listed as the FCC Form 470 contact person and allows that service provider to participate in the competitive bidding process; the service provider prepares the applicant's FCC Form 470 or participates in the bid evaluation or vendor selection process in any way; the applicant turns over to a service provider the responsibility for ensuring a fair and open competitive bidding process; an applicant employee with a role in the service provider selection process also has an ownership interest in the service provider seeking to participate in the competitive bidding process; and the applicant's FCC Form 470 does not describe the supported services with sufficient specificity to enable interested service providers to submit responsive bids.

(b) Competitive bid requirements. Except as provided in §54.511(c), an eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library shall seek competitive bids, pursuant to the requirements established in this subpart, for all services eligible for support under §54.502. These competitive bid requirements apply in addition to state and local competitive bid requirements and are not intended to preempt such state or local requirements.

(c) Posting of FCC Form 470. (1) An eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library seeking bids for eligible services under this subpart shall submit a completed FCC Form 470 to the Administrator to initiate the competitive bidding process. The FCC Form 470 and any request for proposal cited in the FCC Form 470 shall include, at a minimum, the following information:

(i) A list of specified services for which the school, library, or consortium requests bids;

(ii) Sufficient information to enable bidders to reasonably determine the needs of the applicant;

(iii) To the extent an applicant seeks the following services or arrangements, an indication of the applicant's intent to seek:

(A) Construction of network facilities that the applicant will own;

(B) A dark-fiber lease, indefeasible right of use, or other dark-fiber service agreement or the modulating electronics necessary to light dark fiber; or

(C) A multi-year installment payment agreement with the service provider for the non-discounted share of special construction costs;

(iv) To the extent an applicant seeks construction of a network that the applicant will own, the applicant must also solicit bids for both the services provided over third-party networks and construction of applicant-owned network facilities, in the same request for proposals;

(v) To the extent an applicant seeks bids for special construction associated with dark fiber or bids to lease and light dark fiber, the applicant must also solicit bids to provide the needed services over lit fiber; and

(vi) To the extent an applicant seeks bids for equipment and maintenance costs associated with lighting dark fiber, the applicant must include these elements in the same FCC Form 470 as the dark fiber.

(2) The FCC Form 470 shall be signed by a person authorized to request bids for eligible services for the eligible school, library, or consortium, including such entities.

(i) A person authorized to request bids on behalf of the entities listed on an FCC Form 470 shall certify under oath that:

(A) The schools meet the statutory definition of “elementary school” or “secondary school” as defined in §54.500 of these rules, do not operate as for-profit businesses, and do not have endowments exceeding $50 million.

(B) The libraries or library consortia eligible for assistance from a State library administrative agency under the Library Services and Technology Act of 1996 do not operate as for-profit businesses and have budgets that are completely separate from any school (including, but not limited to, elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities).

(C) Support under this support mechanism is conditional upon the school(s) and library(ies) securing access to all of the resources, including computers, training, software, maintenance, internal connections, and electrical connections necessary to use the services purchased effectively.

(ii) A person authorized to both request bids and order services on behalf of the entities listed on an FCC Form 470 shall, in addition to making the certifications listed in paragraph (c)(2)(i) of this section, certify under oath that:

(A) The services the school, library, or consortium purchases at discounts will be used primarily for educational purposes and will not be sold, resold, or transferred in consideration for money or any other thing of value, except as allowed by §54.513.

(B) All bids submitted for eligible products and services will be carefully considered, with price being the primary factor, and the bid selected will be for the most cost-effective service offering consistent with §54.511.

(3) The Administrator shall post each FCC Form 470 that it receives from an eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library on its Web site designated for this purpose.

(4) After posting on the Administrator's Web site an eligible school, library, or consortium FCC Form 470, the Administrator shall send confirmation of the posting to the entity requesting service. That entity shall then wait at least four weeks from the date on which its description of services is posted on the Administrator's Web site before making commitments with the selected providers of services. The confirmation from the Administrator shall include the date after which the requestor may sign a contract with its chosen provider(s).

(d) Gift restrictions. (1) Subject to paragraphs (d)(3) and (4) of this section, an eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library may not directly or indirectly solicit or accept any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or any other thing of value from a service provider participating in or seeking to participate in the schools and libraries universal service program. No such service provider shall offer or provide any such gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or other thing of value except as otherwise provided herein. Modest refreshments not offered as part of a meal, items with little intrinsic value intended solely for presentation, and items worth $20 or less, including meals, may be offered or provided, and accepted by any individuals or entities subject to this rule, if the value of these items received by any individual does not exceed $50 from any one service provider per funding year. The $50 amount for any service provider shall be calculated as the aggregate value of all gifts provided during a funding year by the individuals specified in paragraph (d)(2)(ii) of this section.

(2) For purposes of this paragraph:

(i) The terms “school, library, or consortium” include all individuals who are on the governing boards of such entities (such as members of a school committee), and all employees, officers, representatives, agents, consultants or independent contractors of such entities involved on behalf of such school, library, or consortium with the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund (E-rate Program), including individuals who prepare, approve, sign or submit E-rate applications, or other forms related to the E-rate Program, or who prepare bids, communicate or work with E-rate service providers, E-rate consultants, or with USAC, as well as any staff of such entities responsible for monitoring compliance with the E-rate Program; and

(ii) The term “service provider” includes all individuals who are on the governing boards of such an entity (such as members of the board of directors), and all employees, officers, representatives, agents, or independent contractors of such entities.

(3) The restrictions set forth in this paragraph shall not be applicable to the provision of any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan, or any other thing of value, to the extent given to a family member or a friend working for an eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library, provided that such transactions:

(i) Are motivated solely by a personal relationship,

(ii) Are not rooted in any service provider business activities or any other business relationship with any such eligible school, library, or consortium, and

(iii) Are provided using only the donor's personal funds that will not be reimbursed through any employment or business relationship.

(4) Any service provider may make charitable donations to an eligible school, library, or consortium that includes an eligible school or library in the support of its programs as long as such contributions are not directly or indirectly related to E-rate procurement activities or decisions and are not given by service providers to circumvent competitive bidding and other E-rate program rules, including those in paragraph (c)(2)(i)(C) of this section, requiring schools and libraries to pay their own non-discount share for the services they are purchasing.

(e) Exemption to competitive bidding requirements. An applicant that seeks support for commercially available high-speed Internet access services for a pre-discount price of $3,600 or less per school or library annually is exempt from the competitive bidding requirements in paragraphs (a) through (c) of this section.

(1) Internet access, as defined in §54.5, is eligible for this exemption only if the purchased service offers at least 100 Mbps downstream and 10 Mbps upstream.

(2) The Chief, Wireline Competition Bureau, is delegated authority to lower the annual cost of high-speed Internet access services or raise the speed threshold of broadband services eligible for this competitive bidding exemption, based on a determination of what rates and speeds are commercially available prior to the start of the funding year.

[75 FR 75412, Dec. 3, 2010, as amended at 76 FR 56302, Sept. 13, 2011; 79 FR 49199, Aug. 19, 2014; 80 FR 5989, Feb. 4, 2015]

Editorial Note: At 83 FR , May 1,2018, §54.503 was amended by revising paragraph (a)(6) however the agency provided two different paragraph (a)(6)'s, the amendment could not be incorporated due to inaccurate amendatory instruction.

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