MCI promotes local service
Representatives from MCI said they met last month with about 50 federal tele-communications managers to encourage them to consider the company as a local-service provider able to compete for contracts traditionally held by regional Bell operating companies.
Jerry Edgerton vice president of MCI's Government Markets division said the company plans to target the federal market as an area of potentially tremendous growth as the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996 opens up local markets to long-distance service providers. Edgerton said the federal government spends up to $1 billion a year for local services. He estimated that a quarter of that could be saved if agencies allowed companies to compete for the business.
"Everybody knows the race is going to start " Edgerton said. "We're just looking to get it kicked off and really focus on the missed opportunity."
MCI has already begun rolling out its local infrastructure and has switches operating in 15 cities with another 20 expected to come on-line by the end of next year Edgerton said. Many of the cities slated to come on-line or already up and running are those with heavy concentrations of federal employees he said.The General Services Administration has already made some steps toward competition in local markets with its Metropolitan Area Architecture program. The program will focus on specific cities beginning with a handful of pilot projects scheduled to get underway next year.
Edgerton said MCI has surpassed AT&T in terms of progress made installing local-service infrastructure. But the company remains slightly behind Sprint which offers local service in 19 states.
Jim Payne Sprint's assistant vice president for FTS 2000 said his company handles Defense or civilian agency traffic in each of the states in which Sprint already holds a presence in the local market.
Unlike MCI and AT&T a significant portion of Sprint's revenue has traditionally come from local telecommunications offerings he said.
But Sprint is not being as aggressive as MCI in targeting the federal government specifically or marketing services to federal users other than those designated in the MAA strategy.
"[MAA] is our first opportunity to look at the federal government from a holistic point of view " Payne said. "Where these opportunities exist we will pursue them."
Payne added that regulations allowing competition in the local loop differ from state to state making it difficult for long-distance carriers to determine when to make their moves into local service.
Edgerton said many of the federal government employees who attended the company's meeting were "chomping at the bit" to buy local service competitively while others were not even concerned with the issue. He said many of them do not even know how to specify requirements for local service because they have never bought it. He predicted many will find it even more confusing when they have to compare offerings from different vendors.
Barbara Connor president of Bell Atlantic Federal Systems said she was not surprised to see MCI moving aggressively into her company's market.
"We at Bell Atlantic feel we can compete effectively in all areas of telecommunications serving the federal government " Connor said in a written statement.
An AT&T spokeswoman said officials there were unavailable to comment on their strategy for offering local service to the federal government.