Competitive bidding is a cornerstone of the E-rate program and, unfortunately one of the biggest problem areas for applicants. Competitive bidding violations are one of the most common reasons for funding denial or funding COMADs (Commitment Adjustment Decisions - meaning you have to pay back the funding you have already received). USAC now has a 10-year document retention period and every applicant is required to document and keep a large variety of information, including: copies of all correspondence received/communicated during the bidding process (including notes about phone conversations with vendors), copies of all bids received, copies of all of the bid evaluation sheets, and copies of executed contracts. If you fail to produce these documents during a USAC audit, USAC very likely will want their funding back (even if it is 9-10 years after the bidding process).
CRW Consulting provides all of our clients training on the competitive bidding process and eligible services, including live webinars that get recorded and stored in your client portal, which can be viewed anytime. We also provide training about what is eligible, and what you should expect while your 470 is open and the bids are coming in (applicants are required to answer “legitimate” – questions about their requested services) during the minimum 28-day bid window.
After you have received your training, and provided some basic information to us, we file your 470 form for you. Our online Bidding Management Service is provided to all of our clients at no additional cost. Should you choose to use the BMS, you can choose to list an employee of CRW Consulting as the contact for the entire bidding process. With the CRW BMS, all bids and questions are required to go through the CRW web site, which means everything gets saved and archived. That information is then stored in your online document binder, accessible to you at any time. If a vendor has a question, it gets submitted through the web site and then sent by CRW staff to the client. The client emails the answer back to CRW, which then gets posted to the web site for all vendors to see. All of the vendors will see the same information at the same time. You will never have to deal directly with a salesperson using the CRW system if you do not want to do so.
CRW files the 471 Form all of our clients, including the required details of services/equipment requested. Before filing the 471, we will review each contract’s signature dates to ensure that your application is correctly completed (signing a contract before the end of the 28-day waiting period or after 471 submission is a program violation). After each application is completed it will undergo another separate review to ensure it is complete and accurate.
Applications for Category Two services can be very burdensome now that USAC requires that all of the Item 21 information be submitted in a very rigid format. CRW staff does all of that data entry for you. If you’re funded for a C2 project, all of that Item 21 data gets added to our Asset Management System, which means you can track every single piece of equipment through our client portal.
After your application is funded, our work does not end. We are there for you for the entire program year, if there are any E-rate related questions that arise, or additional paperwork (such as service substitutions or Form(s) 500 to be filed), we will take care of it. We also provide ongoing program updates as E-rate rules change and develop. If you are funded for C2 equipment, our Asset Tracking System allows you to track all of your equipment in the event of an E-rate audit. From the beginning of the application cycle, through the end of the program year, we are there for you - you are hiring us to do any necessary E-rate paperwork for at least an 18 month period.