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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Now, hidden forms

You've heard me bellyache about the secret rules and the hidden rules, but a new appeal has got me bothered about hidden forms.

Seems an applicant got two bids for its WAN, and selected the service provider with the higher bid. That's OK under E-Rate rules, as long as price was the primary factor. And the district says that price was the primary factor, and has supplied some evidence to support that position. But because they could not produce "RFP Response Evaluation Worksheets," they were found to have violated program rules.

So now we have a hidden form. Applicants have to retain a bid evaluation matrix. Nowhere do the rules say you have to make one. Certainly, the USAC Web pages on bid evaluation imply that you should have a written evaluation, but nowhere does it say that one must be created, and nowhere does it say what form it must take.

I've made this point before when talking about tech plans:
If USAC wants applicants to document something in a particular way, they should create a form for it. I hate forms as much as the next person, but they do clearly delineate what information must be recorded. Creating a Form 666 (or whatever) to record bid evaluations wouldn't add new rules or complexity to the process, it would reveal the rules and complexity that already exist, but are obscured by fuzzy language like "construct an evaluation."

I don't mind if USAC and the FCC use vague language to describe vague requirements, but if there is a specific program requirement, it should be described by specific language. Don't say "construct an evaluation" if you mean "build a bid evaluation matrix like the example we've provided, being sure to show the weight given to each criterion."

As it stands now, most applicants don't realize that they have to create written evaluation documents that clearly show that price was the primary factor. Because the rules don't say that they have to create such a document.

Let's bring the ridiculous number of required documents out in the open by making them all forms. If we could stack the vast quantity of rules and piles of required documentation in front of the Commissioners, maybe they would rethink the process that has been created to transfer $3,000 (the median FRN amount) to governmental and non-profit organizations.

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