It is no secret that wireless networks cost a lot to purchase, implement, and maintain. However, if you follow some simple negotiating tips, leverage your competitive position, and explore your funding options, you can cut your costs and boost your budget to make your district’s purchases possible. The section below gives you some tips on how.
Here are a few tips to help you as you negotiate with product vendors:
When managed correctly, purchasing consortia can negotiate better prices for many pieces of equipment because of their ability to buy in bulk. Many manufacturers participate in state contracts and/or purchasing consortia such as PEPPM or WSCA. Many districts have found that these consortia have been effective purchasing vehicles for them. However, if a district’s RFP process is handled well and there is competition for the bid, the district may get better pricing on its own than through the consortia.
By discussing purchasing consortia with your vendor and asking about comparative pricing discounts, you will demonstrate that you have another purchasing option. This can help ensure that the vendor gives you competitive pricing.
As you are looking at potential solutions, be aware of which pieces of the overall solution are eligible for E-rate reimbursement.
There have been significant improvements to the E-rate rules starting in 2015, including straightforward eligibility for Wi-Fi equipment and services. The FCC Eligible Services List states that APs, controllers, and the required software are all eligible for reimbursement.
"Eligible Broadband Internal Connections Components
In addition to these critical components, Tech Directors generally have questions about eligibility of maintenance contracts and advanced services appliances (location appliances, security appliances, etc). USAC has the ultimate authority over whether these items are eligible so you should contact them with your specific questions.
Under the modernized E-rate order, districts will receive $150 (before discount) per student over a five year period, to upgrade their LAN/Wi-Fi infrastructure. Along with the $150 per-student cap, a wider range of management platforms and services are potentially eligible for reimbursement, which may expand your options to best use E-rate funds. Of course, as you are planning a network upgrade, you should consider which network upgrades are best supported by the E-rate $150 per-student discount as a funding source, and adjust your budget plans accordingly. If your network’s switching and security systems are already up-to-date, you may have a larger budget to spend on wireless and may be able to use E-rate funding for more advanced services.