FTS 2001 caveat emptor

With the recent FTS 2001 awards to Sprint and MCI WorldCom for long-distance service, agencies may rejoice at the potential for substantial savings in their long-distance bills.

The two companies bid aggressively against AT&T and promise savings of about 60 percent for standard voice calls beyond the already low prices available on the FTS 2000 contract.

But agencies should beware: The new contracts include a dizzying selection of new services and pricing options that will put additional burdens on agencies that are familiar only with the more cut-and-dried FTS 2000 approach.

For example, the new contracts give agencies the option of negotiating better deals from local phone companies for access to Sprint's or MCI's FTS 2001 networks. This option was not provided under FTS 2000, which bundled local access and transport services. Larger agencies stand to reap huge savings by using their clout to negotiate better prices from local carriers for the link from agency premises to the long-distance carrier's point of presence.

In addition, services for international calling, Internet and intranet were not available under FTS 2000 but will be options under the new contracts. Agencies will have to determine whether it makes sense to bundle these services together or buy them separately off different contracts.

Agencies also have the option of buying services outside the FTS 2001 program, including buying from AT&T, which was shut out in its bid for an FTS 2001 contract.

With agencies having access to a multitude of new options through FTS 2001 and other venues, they should not delay in educating themselves on the new service options of the FTS 2001 program and preparing for the transition to Sprint and MCI. The contracts offer huge savings, but agencies can cash in only if they buy intelligently.

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