Agencies prepare for new telecom services

Verizon Communications anticipates that federal agencies will begin clamoring for the company's next-generation telecommunications services this fall, with commercial businesses following suit shortly thereafter.

The company was one of three providers chosen by the General Services Administration in March to provide voice, Internet, wireless and satellite services to government locations worldwide as part of the multibillion-dollar Networx contract.

Verizon Federal Vice President Susan Zeleniak said on Tuesday that the contract lets agencies pick from a range of Verizon networked services -- from converged voice-video-data communications to newer features, such as advanced security, Web hosting and multimedia call-center services.

With so-called intelligent routing, questions that citizens e-mail to agencies day or night are distributed to customer-service agents around the clock in the same manner as calls.

Each inquiry in the queue has a corresponding record containing citizen contact information and service history. That allows customer-service agents to reply via e-mail, phone, chat or mail, and eliminates the need for citizens to repeat the same information each time they contact the agency.

Agencies government-wide have expressed interest in "smart" contact centers, according to Zeleniak. The government has become "very sophisticated" in its call-center technologies, she said.

Verizon Federal Chief Technology Officer Charles Lee added, "There's an awful lot of new capabilities that were not provided in [the current federal telecom system]."

While citizens who communicate with the government will not see the changes, they will benefit from the tighter security and various enhancements supplied by Verizon and the other awardees, AT&T Government Solutions and Qwest Government Services.

"Security is huge, and it is getting larger" due to new data security rules, Lee said.

Zeleniak added, "We're seeing that agencies are transitioning to move to private [Internet protocol] networks."

In the homeland security realm, Verizon sees the federal government's desire to interact with state and local governments. GSA insisted that contractors furnish managed network capabilities and collaboration tools, Zeleniak said.

"In the end, what we've come up with is a set of products and services" that will be available to the commercial sector because of the "forward-thinking" requirements put forth by GSA.

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