D.C. prodded to use FTS 2000

District of Columbia Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) this month resumed her call for the District of Columbia to reduce its telecommunications budget expenditures by using General Services Administration contracts such as FTS 2000.

In an April 16 letter to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Norton informed the mayor that her similar request in December 1994 to his predecessor Sharon Pratt Kelly produced no action. She urged Barry to direct his staff to resume talks with Bob Woods commissioner of GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service that would result in the district government's use of FTS 2000 and the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System contracts.

"It appears from the documents provided to my office that the district did not elect to pursue [the] FTS 2000 contract " Norton wrote. "Yet Woods has informed me that the district may be paying as much as $30 per line now compared with $13 per line for the same service under the FTS 2000 contract.

"Not only would the district realize large savings under FTS 2000 but the city would acquire the capacity for new technologies such as high-speed modem lines for schools and new voice video and data technologies " Norton added. "I believe that the city can ill afford to proceed without taking advantage of this opportunity or at the very least doing the necessary comparison as is required before contracts are negotiated."

Officials at Barry's office and the D.C. Administrative Services Department did not respond to requests for comment on Norton's letter. Federal Computer Week reported last year that high-level district officials ignored GSA's help and that the department attempted to do its own telecom procurement which failed after most vendors chose not to bid out of fear that the contract was too risky. The district government then purchased services from AT&T [FCW March 18 1996].

Woods has advocated the district's use of FTS 2000 for years as a cost-cutting mechanism but city officials have continually resisted.

Jim Jones executive assistant to Woods said Woods met with some district officials since Norton sent the letter and he was briefed on their existing telecom services to determine how FTS offerings could best meet the city's needs. Jones said Woods does not believe it makes sense to try to sell telecom services to the district government in pieces but rather as an end-to-end solution.

"We're sort of at the preliminary stages " Jones said of the discussions with the D.C. government. "We're waiting to hear back from the district to invite us to come and help them."

Jim Payne vice president of FTS 2000 at Sprint said his company attempted to negotiate a deal with the district government in 1989 to offer FTS 2000 services but was rebuffed when district officials chose instead to renegotiate their existing contract with AT&T. Payne said Sprint estimated the district government could have saved more than $2 million in long-distance costs if it had decided to sign onto Sprint's FTS 2000 network eight years ago.

An AT&T spokeswoman said the firm is "very interested" in bringing the D.C. government onto FTS 2000. "We are in active discussions with them."

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