GSA to add telecom to multiple-award sked

The General Services Administration plans to expand the multiple-award schedule (MAS) program to offer more telecommunications services by including voice, video and data teleconferencing services.

GSA's Federal Supply Service last week issued a notice asking vendors to comment on the agency's plans to include the new services in the MAS. Responses are due Sept. 15. The new services could be available to federal agencies as early as December, according to Evangeline O'Neal, a contract specialist at FSS.

O'Neal said FSS has identified numerous applications for the new teleconferencing services, based on its research of agency requirements. She said agencies may use the services to enable remote employees to attend training or college courses without having to travel to the classroom. Law enforcement agencies need the services so prisoners can attend court proceedings held in areas far from where they are jailed. Other agencies have expressed interest in using the services to allow employees to monitor their children's daycare activities, she said.

"We determined there is a bona fide need," O'Neal said. "There are a lot of applications out there."

Last week's notice, published in the Commerce Business Daily, represents the second time in just more than a month that FSS has expanded its schedule offerings into the area of telecommunications services. The organization made its first move into telecommunications in July when it announced plans to modify the MAS program to include cellular and paging services. Traditionally, GSA has offered those types of services to federal agencies through its Federal Technology Service organization.

Telecommunications consultant Warren Suss, president of Warren H. Suss Associates, said the trend of FSS offering those services reflects a new attitude of cooperation between the two branches of GSA. "In general, the area of telecom services has always ended up on the FTS side of the house, so it's kind of surprising to see telecom services show up on the Federal Supply Service schedule," Suss said.

Alan Chvotkin, vice president at AT&T Government Markets, said officials at his company have not yet determined whether they will respond to last week's solicitation. But he said the company - which already offers Internet services on the schedule - has been a proponent of expanding the program's scope to encompass more telecommunications. He said the schedule would allow agencies to purchase services without extended contractual negotiations and give vendors an added vehicle from which to sell services to federal customers.

O'Neal said the schedule will cover the needs of agencies who want to use the services on a one-time basis, but it also will accommodate agencies that want to establish deals covering longer periods of time, during which a particular vendor will make its teleconferencing services available to users.

The notice is part of FSS' research, and O'Neal and others at the organization plan to meet with potential contractors during the next month to discuss plans.

FSS officials plan to release the solicitation for the new services before Dec. 15 and begin awarding contracts about a month later.

Officials at Sprint and Bell Atlantic Federal, both GSA schedule holders, declined to comment on whether their companies would add those services to their schedules if permitted to do so.

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