Schools and Libraries (E-Rate)

Step 1 Competitive Bidding

Updated August 2017

Requirements for Leased Dark Fiber & Self-Provisioned Networks

Requirements for Leased Dark Fiber

If a school or library is considering seeking support for leased dark fiber, the school or library must also solicit proposals to provide the needed services over leased lit fiber over a time period comparable to the duration of the dark fiber lease or indefeasible right of use (IRU), and must select the most cost effective option. The requirement to seek competitive leased lit fiber bids applies whether or not the leased dark fiber solution requested involves special construction.

If an applicant is also considering the option of requesting support for Network Equipment (e.g., modulating electronics and other equipment necessary to make a Category One service functional) and/or Maintenance and Operations costs associated with lighting leased dark fiber, it must request bids for those services in the same FCC Form 470 as the bid request for leased dark fiber. Applicants are required to consider all responsive proposals received and select the most cost-effective option.

In considering whether a leased dark fiber or leased lit fiber is the more cost-effective option, applicants will need to identify a specific and comprehensive total cost for each of the responsive proposals received, and compare those costs over a defensible time period. Accordingly, when requesting bids for and related to leased dark fiber, you should be sure to ask service providers to supply all of the information necessary for you to identify the total cost of the service (e.g., all of the costs associated with deploying any new fiber to connect entities, purchasing Network Equipment, maintenance and operations, etc.).

We recommend that applicants considering seeking support for leased dark fiber start planning for their competitive bidding process early, and reserve sufficient time to draft an RFP that addresses all of the points a service provider's proposal should cover for the requested leased dark fiber and leased lit fiber solutions, as well as any other connectivity solution for which bids are sought.

Requirements for Self-Provisioned Networks

Applicants considering self-provisioning must solicit bids for both a self-provisioned network and services provided over third-party networks. As with leased dark fiber, applicants considering seeking support for a self-provisioned network should start planning for their competitive bidding process early, and consider all of the information that they must collect from service providers in order to consider all of the responsive proposals received, and select the most cost-effective service offering. Applicants will need to know the total cost of each proposed service offering to do this. For a proposed self-provisioned network, that means the applicant will need to be able to evaluate the total cost of constructing, owning, operating, and maintaining the network (e.g., recurring fees for maintenance and operations, Network Equipment) over its useful life.

Installment Payments

Applicants are usually required to pay the non-discount share of E-rate Program supported services within 90 days of receipt of service. However, if an applicant is considering seeking support for special construction charges, it may specify on its FCC Form 470 that bidders allow the applicant to pay the non-discount share of special construction charges in installments over up to four years.

Bidders are not required to offer installment payments upon request. If an applicant does not request installment payments in its FCC Form 470, or did request it but the vendor declined to offer the option, the applicant must pay its non-discount share of special construction charges within 90 days of receipt of service.

For more information regarding filing requirements for E-rate Program supported fiber purchases and special construction, see the FCC Form 470 Filing Guide.