The Dawn of FTS 2001

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After years of negotiations, forums, congressional hearings, postponements and redrafts, the General Services Administration today is releasing a final request for proposals for the Federal Telecommunications Service long distance telecommunications contracts and a draft request for proposals for its local telecommunications contracts. The long distance contracts alone are valued at $5 billion to $8 billion over their eight year lifespan.

One of the largest non-defense procurements the government has ever solicited, the long distance contracts, known as FTS 2001, and the local contracts, known as Metropolitan Area Acquisitions (MAA), have created an uproar in the telecommunications industry. For the first time, the contracts will allow long distance companies to compete for local service contracts and local providers to compete for long distance contracts. In addition, agencies will not be required to use the FTS contracts for their telecommunications services under FTS 2001, as they are under FTS 2000.

The FTS 2001 contracts up for bid will replace the FTS 2000 contracts, which will expire in December 1998.

The MAA draft request for proposals, which include contracts for the New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington areas, will have a 30-day comment period, a GSA official said. Through the Washington area contract, which accounts for one-third of FTS's local service business nationwide, FTS will attempt to wire the city's federal buildings with high-speed data lines. Robert Woods, GSA's FTS commissioner, said the contract would serve as a model for the rest of the country. The federal government is also trying to bring the D.C. government into the contract so the city can wire its schools with the data lines.

"This is a very critical procurement effort," Woods said.

Woods said the process leading to the FTS 2001 solicitations worked because representatives from government, industry and Congress participated.

"Government listened at every stage," he said.

In an Apr. 29 letter to Woods, L. Kenneth Johnson, chairman of the Industry Advisory Council, praised the feedback the government gave the council as "enthusiastically positive."

In testimony Wednesday before the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on government management, information and technology, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, also praised GSA for its work with industry and Congress.

Frank Lalley, associate deputy assistant secretary for telecommunications at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the big job now will be to make the transition from FTS 2000 to FTS 2001. Lalley said the Interagency Management Council has formed a team to plan for the transition.

In addition to the telecommunications contracts, FTS yesterday launched a "seat management" project to change the way agencies buy computer products. Under the seat management concept, agencies would buy computer desktop programs on a monthly, per user basis, rather than buying large quantities of software and hardware packages. Seat management is designed to keep agencies from purchasing products that don't get used and reduce excess inventories. GSA estimates the government could save $5 billion a year by implementing seat management.

The FTS 2001 final request for proposals and the MAA draft request for proposals are available for download at http://post.fts2k.gsa.gov.

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