Interior picks MCI for telecom

The Interior Department has signed MCI WorldCom as its provider of long-distance telecommunications service through the General Services Administration's recently awarded FTS 2001 contract.

Jim Dolezal, chief of telecommunications systems at Interior, said he made his decision after meeting separately with representatives from MCI; Sprint, the other FTS 2001 contractor; and AT&T, Interior's current provider under the FTS 2000 contract.

In a memo to other federal telecom executives, Dolezal said he compared the vendors based on five categories: past performance, technology, management, cost, and the quality and clarity of vendors' responses. He said MCI's response scored higher than those of its competitors.

Dolezal said AT&T executives attempted to persuade him to forgo the FTS 2001 contract, which is not mandatory, and stay on AT&T's network. Dolezal, impressed with the presentations provided by MCI and Sprint, rejected AT&T's pleas.

"The attitude and aggressiveness of the new vendors is a welcome change," he said.

Tony Bardo, director of civilian networks at MCI WorldCom Government Markets, said he and members of his staff were working with telecom officials from Interior last week to discuss the department's requirements, MCI's capabilities and a transition schedule. Bardo said the department hopes to begin the switch to MCI early this summer.

Dolezal's memo specified an early transition to FTS 2001. "The department decided early on that the benefits of an early transition were so great that we needed to expedite our decision process and transition planning efforts," he wrote.

Interior is the second department to officially select an FTS 2001 service provider. Last month the Treasury Department selected Sprint as its long-distance service provider under the contract.

Bardo said the major challenge of working with Interior will be to ensure that all of the department's sites are served efficiently. "They are certainly spread out all around the country and have some remote locations," he said. "We have to make sure we take as good care of those remote locations as we do for the others."

Rick Slifer, MCI's director of FTS 2001 programs, said Interior's decision represents a landmark in his company's FTS 2001 effort. "All along, we have been doing the necessary manipulations to get into this game. but now that we are in the planning process with DOI, it's very exciting," Slifer said.

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