MCI networks congressional House offices to district offices

MCI late last month concluded installation of a new data network that will connect the Washington, D.C., offices of Congress members in the House of Representatives to their district offices in about 400 locations throughout the country.

Susan Zeleniak, a branch manager at MCI Government Markets, said the company won the contract, worth about $11 million, in October. She said MCI will provide frame relay, private line and Internet-access services to House members and their staffs.

"Members consider these critical connections," Zeleniak said. "They allow computers in district offices to access data in Washington."

Zeleniak said users will have an option of choosing between frame-relay or private-line service for connecting to their district offices. She said 90 percent of the offices will use the frame-relay option, which is better suited to client-server architectures.

MCI had been the incumbent on the frame relay portion of the contract, but private lines and Internet access previously were provided by Sprint. Procurement officials at the House competed the three services separately with the intention of awarding between one and three contracts. Because MCI's proposal was deemed the best value for all three services, only one contract was awarded, Zeleniak said.

"The House could have awarded three contracts, but all three went to MCI," she said.

Neither Sprint nor AT&T bid on the contracts. Spokespersons from the companies said their companies did not stand to gain from the awards.

Anthony Bardo, director of MCI Government Markets, said he believes MCI's ability to provide highly reliable connections between Washington and the members' district offices was the factor that allowed the company to prevail in the competition for the award.

John Okay, senior vice president for telecommunications and special studies at Federal Sources Inc., said the House's requirements could have been met through existing federal contracts such as the General Services Administration's FTS 2000 network. But he said Congress traditionally opts to award its own contracts.

"It seems a philosophy of wanting to maintain some separation from the executive branch," Okay said.

The House is in the process of evaluating proposals for the recompetition of its contract for voice service in both houses of Congress— a contract MCI holds. Bardo said MCI submitted a proposal for that contract and is awaiting a decision by contracting officials on the Hill.

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