GSA extends FTS 2000 phase-out to one year

"It was anticipated that at this point we would have been further along in the acquisition process," Bates said. "The hope was that the contracts would have been awarded sooner so that planning for the transition could have been done beforehand." ~Bates acknowledged that AT&T and Sprint may increase their prices during the transition year. ~ "The government can't take unilateral action," she said. "[The vendors] have to agree to the terms and conditions. But we have leverage in that we bring a lot of business to the table, and we are hoping AT&T and Sprint will see that. We are confident that we can work something out." ~Bates said members of her staff would meet with the two vendors within a month to work out the terms and conditions of the extension. Until those discussions are concluded, it remains unclear whether users of the network will pay more for service during the transition period. ~ "It's our customers' expectation that we will be able to enjoy the same quality of service and prices over the length of the entire contract," Bates said. ~A letter dated April 17 from GSA contracting officer H. Buckley Cording asked the FTS 2000 vendors to submit by May 29 proposals for providing service during the one-year period. "Once this proposal is received and the negotiations are complete, we will forward the final modification for your signature," Cording wrote. ~Jim Payne, assistant vice president of FTS 2000 at Sprint, said he is assessing how the extension will affect his company's personnel and equipment. He said he had not yet determined whether the action would have any effect on FTS 2000 rates. ~An AT&T spokeswoman refused to comment on the extension. "We're discussing it with GSA," she said. ~Consultant Warren Suss, president of Warren H. Suss Associates, Jenkintown, Pa., said the government will be best served by a speedy move between contracts. "I think it's clear that the longer the transition takes, the more the government spends," Suss said. "There is going to be some serious price competition for FTS 2001, and the government should encourage a rapid transition to gain the benefits of the new contracts." ~Suss said the extension adds an element of risk because agencies may not complete their cutover to FTS 2001 before the Year 2000. "This gives the possibility of pushing out past Year 2000," he said. "If agencies experience problems as a result of Year 2000, they will want to have put the FTS 2001 transition behind them."The General Services Administration this month notified AT&T and Sprint of the government's intention to extend the period for phasing out the FTS 2000 contract from 180 days after the contract expires to 12 months.

The FTS 2000 contract is slated to expire in December, no more than four months after GSA plans to award contracts for the FTS 2001 next-generation long-distance services.

Sandy Bates, deputy commissioner of GSA's Federal Technology Service, said GSA officials had hoped to award the FTS 2001 contracts at least six months ago but were thwarted by delays instigated by telecommunications vendors. Consequently, a transition period of a few months will not be sufficient to allow GSA and its customers to plan and execute the transition, she said.

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