GSA threatens to yank Sprint's FTS 2000 traffic

General Services Administration officials last week informally notified Sprint of plans to move all agencies to AT&T's portion of the FTS 2000 network if Sprint does not decrease its prices to a level comparable with AT&T's.

John Okay, deputy commissioner of GSA's Federal Tele-communications Service, said last year's recompetition between the two FTS 2000 vendors resulted in a substantial difference between the rates AT&T and Sprint charge agencies for long-distance service. And users of the more expensive Sprint service have been complaining.

"The differential is so great that neither we nor our customers are satisfied with it," Okay said.

A Sprint customer at the Justice Department, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that users there are "not happy with the pricing or the service." He declined to elaborate on specific problems with the service.

Okay said nothing in GSA's contract with Sprint prevents the government from pulling all the traffic off the network. "Our authority under the original contract language is such that we can pull traffic off. We don't want to do that, but that is our fall-back position."

Jim Payne, Sprint's assistant vice president for FTS 2000, said he would be willing to negotiate with GSA for lower rates, but he added that AT&T's tariff filing on its FTS 2000 rates was extremely "obscure."

"We will continue to do the right thing by the customer, and we intend to fully support FTS 2000," Payne said. "But we need to know the government's expectations." He added that GSA's request for lower rates came as no surprise.

John Doherty, AT&T's vice president for FTS 2000 and civilian markets, said GSA has not officially contacted him concerning the possibility of taking on Sprint's users.

Sprint currently provides service to Justice, the U.S Courts, 800-service users at the Department of Veteran Affairs and other smaller agencies.

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