Treasury faults AT&T over 800 service

The Treasury Department is so dissatisfied with AT&T's 800 service under FTS 2000 that it does not want to use the AT&T network for the Internal Revenue Service if problems cannot be resolved before tax-filing season.

The IRS has run into difficulties with reporting systems that collect information on AT&T's 800 service. The systems provide information on network use - data required by Congress and other organizations.

The IRS' 800 service is a critical resource for citizens with questions on income-tax returns.

Treasury originally used 800 service from Sprint under FTS 2000 but was directed to switch carriers following last year's recompetition a change that was expected to translate into great savings for the government. That transition however has hit snags along the way and is taking twice as long as expected [FCW Aug. 19].

In an Oct. 25 letter to Bob Woods the General Services Administration's commissioner of FTS 2000 James J. Flyzik director of Treasury's Office of Telecommunications Management wrote: "As you are now well aware Treasury is very dissatisfied with the performance of the Network A contractor AT&T. The transition project has been delayed continually by AT&T's inability to meet self-imposed deadlines...the failure of equipment to work satisfactorily after it has been installed and AT&T's inability to adequately determine the nature and causes of problems." The letter was co-signed by Wushow Chou Treasury's chief information officer.

Officials from Treasury the IRS and GSA will meet with AT&T this week to determine whether AT&T will be able to resolve the 800-service problems. "This must be to the satisfaction of the IRS in order to instill confidence that AT&T can meet the service requirements for the upcoming tax filing season " Flyzik's letter said. "If AT&T is unable to do this Treasury will request... an exception to the use of FTS 2000 services for the IRS for the upcoming tax-filing season." This could mean a return to Sprint as the other FTS 2000 contractor.

Jim Payne Sprint's vice president for FTS 2000 said Sprint had not been informed of any change in the transition plans but he added that company officials were aware of Treasury's dissatisfaction with AT&T's performance. He said the transition is "way less than half completed" and that AT&T has yet to cut over the department's most complex systems. The 800 service however has been installed according to GSA.

Sandy Bates the assistant commissioner for service delivery at GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service said there are no active discussions regarding a possible pull back from AT&T. The focus instead is on addressing AT&T's problems. "Everybody is scrambling to fix these problems " she said. "To...go back would be difficult and the tax season is right on us." She added that AT&T is "working diligently" to resolve Treasury's concerns.

John Doherty vice president of AT&T Government Markets confirmed that "there are still several issues that are of concern to the IRS and folks within the IRS that depend upon...reports about the network and its usage. They have a real sense of urgency on getting these issues resolved."

Doherty said AT&T is working with Treasury the IRS and GSA and has "made a lot of progress within the last seven to 10 days." He said AT&T is working on the PC-based reporting systems and will also need to train systems administrators on the use of the systems.

Bates said she is "guardedly optimistic" that solutions to the problems are "in the offing."

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