Putting Together Your Request for Proposals or Information Top Takeaways Policymakers should write and distribute requests for proposals and requests for information 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 and optional elements that providers might consider as well. Writing Your Requests for Proposals or Information The Broadband Infrastructure Office 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, and the 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 found to be agreeable to the parties, at least informally, during the meeting. However, if the providers’ meeting does not reveal consensus or some initial steps forward, the community would likely consider issuing a request for information or 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 that present guidance and examples of 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 present 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, while 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 The BroadbandIO’s technical assistance team has worked with dozens of North Carolina communities and counties in expanding broadband access and has worked directly with providers. Team members are able to offer guidance on strategy and RFP and RFI language and structure that are more likely to garner positive results from providers. Examples of Broadband RFPs The Mountain County Advancement Foundation, Inc., aa 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, requested proposals from qualified professional consulting firms to conduct a comprehensive broadband assessment and feasibility study. Here is its 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 Wi-Fi RFP Template This template is a great starting point for putting together your request for proposals for a downtown wifi network. RFI Template #1 This template is a great starting point for putting together your request for information to learn options for expanding your broadband network. RFI Template #2 This template is a great starting point for putting together your request for information to learn options for expanding your broadband network.