GSA plans to open WITS to multiple contractors

The General Services Administration plans to negotiate with about a half-dozen telecommunications vendors to offer fast packet service Internet access Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and other services on the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System (WITS) network in the national capital region by this fall.

The WITS contract held by Bell Atlantic Federal Systems will provide the Synchronous Optical Network (Sonet) transport backbone that would carry the new services across the Washington D.C. area. Previously most agencies bought these services individually from Bell Atlantic under tariffed rates.

Margaret Binns assistant commissioner for field operations at GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service said the plan is part of her office's overall strategy to increase local service competition. "We are trying to make it less difficult for multiple companies to do business with us and our smaller agency customers " she said.

Wayne Brady GSA's director of WITS planning said GSA will publish this week a notice in the Commerce Business Daily alerting telecom vendors that the agency will negotiate memoranda of agreement with companies that want to interconnect with the WITS backbone and offer services to federal users.

Brady said the agreements will essentially allow vendors to plug into the WITS network in exchange for a "small fee" collected from users based on the amount of bandwidth used on the WITS Sonet ring. He added that the fee will allow GSA to recover the cost of maintaining the network. Agencies would deal directly with vendors and would not be billed by GSA he said.

Bill Graeff director of civilian programs at Bell Atlantic said the firm is negotiating to offer frame relay Fiber Distributed Data Interface (FDDI) Switched Multimegabit Digital Service ATM and Internet access services over WITS.

"We hope there is enough growth in this area to maintain our share of the business " Graeff said. "We certainly stand ready to compete if we have to."

Graeff said he expects to conclude negotiations with GSA and begin offering services by mid-October.Ed Staunton vice president of federal sales at MFS Telecom said he expects his company to be the first to obtain a memorandum of agreement and to offer switched services over WITS. He said MFS will offer T-1 and T-3 access to WITS as well as Ethernet Token Ring FDDI Fast Ethernet and ATM services. He hopes to offer Internet access "very soon " leveraging the company's recent merger with UUNET.

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