Putting Together Your RFP or RFI

Community Broadband Playbook

Top Takeaways

  • Policymakers should write and distribute RFPs and RFIs that are neither too general nor too specific.
  • Build your RFP or RFI around your goals and objectives.
  • Establish your committee’s priorities and must haves as well as optional elements that providers might consider as well.

Writing your RFPs or RFIs

The BroadbandIO representative and the local broadband committee should work toward and may discover some consensus between themselves and the providers present at their meeting. For example, incumbent providers might informally indicate they would be open to a cost-sharing partnership with the community; WISPs and incumbents might also find common ground.

When this consensus is present, when participants are perhaps able to discern the beginnings of an agreement on how to best expand broadband access, the community is best served by issuing a Request for Proposals. Naturally, this RFP would describe components and specifications that were found to be agreeable to the parties, at least informally, during the meeting. On the other hand, if the providers’ meeting does not reveal consensus or some initial steps forward, the community would likely consider issuing a Request for Information, or a Request for Interest. Policymakers issue RFIs when they don’t have enough information with which to decide on the best policy. Clearly, policymakers can and should use insights gained during their providers meeting to craft the RFI; however, the RFI is meant to be a more general document to seek and obtain information and interest from providers. The information gained in the RFI is then used to craft an RFP. The internet has many public administration and business sites which present guidance and examples for both RFPs and RFIs. The county or community’s general counsel or other professional or legal representative will likely have a preferred format and practice in writing these documents. We have presented several examples of RFPs and RFIs, from which you may write your own documents as needed. However, there are several concepts to keep in mind when writing RFPs and RFIs for broadband expansion initiatives.

Details and generalities

Policymakers should write and distribute RFPs and RFIs that are neither too general nor too specific. Too general, and the requirements become vague, and bidders do not respond with proposals that offer complete solutions to the community’s needs. On the other hand, RFPs and RFIs that are too specific restrict the creativity and innovation of the bidding providers.

Make your goals inform your RFP.

Remember the goals that the broadband committee set. Refrain from looking for 100 percent coverage in the county, because connecting 100 percent of a county’s residences and businesses is likely not financially viable or even physically possible. Instead focus your RFP on your priorities: for example, 100 percent broadband access for your anchor institutions, and/or a strong focus on unserved or underserved areas and neighborhoods, and/or broadband access downtown.

Focus on your “needs,” but you can ask for “wants,” too.

Frame your needs with specific words: “will,” “shall,” and “must.” These words indicate requirements. But this doesn’t mean you can’t give providers a “wishlist.” Use words like “may,” “can,” and “optional” to designate components that are desired, rather than required, and to enable providers to offer creativity and innovation in expanding broadband.

Re-establish priorities ahead of time.

Naturally, providers will respond to your RFP or RFI in different ways. Each will have strengths and weaknesses. Some might feature lower costs, others will offer innovations that could expand broadband access to more residences and businesses. The broadband committee may have a difficult time deciding; therefore, it should be certain of its priorities, and agree ahead of time what it wants most from the providers’ proposals.

Use the services of the Broadband Infrastructure Office.

BIO’s technical assistance team has worked with dozens of North Carolina communities and counties in expanding broadband access and working directly with providers. Team members will be able to offer guidance on strategy and RFP and RFI language and structure that are more likely to garner positive results from providers.

EXAMPLE BROADBAND REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL

The Mountain County Advancement Foundation, Inc., (MCAF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, requested proposals from qualified professional consulting firms to conduct a comprehensive broadband assessment and feasibility study. Here is their RFP for reference.

BROADBAND RFP TEMPLATE #1

This template is a great starting point for putting together your request for proposals for the expansion of your local broadband network.

BROADBAND RFP TEMPLATE #2

This template is a great starting point for putting together your request for proposals for the expansion of your local broadband network.

DOWNTOWN WIFI RFP TEMPLATE #1

This template is a great starting point for putting together your request for proposals for a downtown wifi network.

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION TEMPLATE #1

This template is a great starting point for putting together your request for information to learn options for expanding your broadband network.

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION TEMPLATE #2

This template is a great starting point for putting together your request for information to learn options for expanding your broadband network.

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