Strong Start to E-rate RFP Season
The count of Form 470s submitted by applicants for the Funding Year 2021 application cycle is running ahead of last year. As of December 10, 2020, 6,241 FY2021 Forms 470 had been certified. Based on an estimated deadline of February 25, 2021, this is 3% higher than the total count of forms posted at the same point in 2019.
Category 2 Demand Strong
The increase in Form 470s is driven by a significant uptick in the number of Category 2 requests for proposals (RFPs), which are up 26% over last year. Strong demand for Category 2 discounts is forecasted this year due to improved rules which give applicants increased flexibility in planning their funding requests. The rising number of Category 2 Form 470s coincides with the applicant survey results reported in Funds For Learning’s annual Trends Report, which indicated that 75% of applicants were interested in applying for these goods in 2021.
Applicants Encouraged to Submit Form 470s
A Form 470 outlines an applicant’s desired purchases and serves as a Request For Proposal (RFP). In order to qualify for program funds, eligible services must competitively bid via a Form 470 that was posted a minimum of 28 days prior to selecting a vendor and awarding contracts. Although the specific dates of the funding year 2021 E-rate Form 471 filing window have not been announced, applicants are encouraged to begin the competitive bidding process and post their Form 470s as soon as possible.
One factor that is likely contributing to faster speeds and lower costs is increasing competition spurred on by the Form 470 competitive bidding process. There has been a 41% increase in the number bids received for Category One services over the past five years. In 2016, the average E-rate funding request for telecommunications or Internet access was tied to bids submitted by 2.4 bidders. By 2020, that number had increased to 3.3 bidders.