MCI wins protest against AT&T

The General Accounting Office last month handed MCI a long-denied victory issuing a protest decision that confirmed the long-distance carrier's assertion that a proposed modification to the General Services Administration's FTS 2000 contract went beyond the scope of the contract.

The protest filed by MCI in June argued that a plan by FTS 2000 vendor AT&T to improve the reliability of NASA's networks through AT&T's Network Service Assurance Plan II (NSAP II) offering would exceed the scope of services outlined in the original FTS 2000 contract. MCI argued in its protest that the service would create an environment in which AT&T would have "total responsibility for all NASA equipment and circuits and [would] become the single point of contact for all NASA network modifications."

While recognizing the broad nature of the FTS 2000 contract GAO agreed with MCI that the NSAP II services do not fit within the contract's scope. "The kind of effort purchased by the NSAP II modification is described in common industry parlance as `network outsourcing ' " GAO ruled. "Outsourcing of an entity's network design and management is a business not traditionally performed by the companies that provide transmission services like those purchased under the FTS 2000 contracts."

Ever since the FTS 2000 contract was awarded in 1988 MCI has suffered defeat after defeat in its efforts to prevent GSA from expanding FTS 2000.Analyst William Cunnane senior vice president for communications technology at Wheat International Communications and a former FTS 2000 program official at GSA said GAO's decision represents the first ruling in MCI's favor since the contract was awarded.

Ron Milam director of GSA's service oversight center for AT&T's portion of FTS 2000 said the government did not plan to appeal GAO's decision. Greg Davis chief of customer service at GSA's Federal Technology Service said he believed NSAP II was a high-speed version of a service already approved for FTS 2000 users.

Davis said GSA has presented alternatives to NASA on other ways to meet its reliability requirements. But he said the agency simply may wait another year until it awards its own data network contract.

An AT&T spokeswoman said company officials are reviewing GAO's decision but have not decided if the company will appeal.

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