GSA preps local service contracts

The General Services Administration last week announced an aggressive schedule for a series of late summer solicitations for governmentwide local telecom service contracts in New York Chicago and San Francisco.

In addition GSA expects to issue requests for proposals for service in an additional 10 cities before the end of the year and another 10 cities early in 1998. Agency officials stressed last week that the schedule is extremely tentative and depends upon the level of competition and the regulatory environment in each service area.

The Metropolitan Area Architecture (MAA) will take advantage of the Telecommunications Reform Act of 1996 by encouraging competition in regions previously monopolized by regional Bell operating companies. GSA will first conduct procurements in areas that have made the most changes.

The MAA program will partially replace the agency's Aggregated Switch Procurements (ASP) worth hundreds of millions of dollars and decrease service rates by encouraging competition among new players in the local telecom arena said John Okay deputy commissioner of GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service. The contracts will focus solely on large urban areas with high concentrations of civilian agencies he said.

"We believe the cities we picked are where we will get maximum competition in the short run " Okay said.

Long-Distance Carriers Poised

Although the regional Bell operating companies remain the most likely winners of the contracts officials at long-distance companies said they have been investing in local service infrastructure and are seriously considering bidding on MAA contracts. Rick Slifer director of FTS 2000 programs at MCI Government Markets said MCI has "enough of an investment in the local stuff that we have to take a serious look at this."

FTS will issue a draft RFP this month for service in the New York area a final version is expected in May with an award by the end of the year.

Solicitations for service in Chicago and San Francisco will appear by September with awards expected by April 1998.

GSA intends to award contracts to a single vendor in each city and hopes to bundle state and local traffic into the networks if that is legal Okay said.

In accordance with GSA's revised strategy for the government's next-generation telecom networks MAA vendors will be allowed to offer long-distance network transport services and local services to agencies in other regions.

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