Contracts keep training on the air

The General Services Administration last week finalized contracts that will give agencies access to as much as $1.18 billion in satellite communication services over the next six years — a relief for agencies that want to use telecommunications to train employees scattered across the nation.

The contracts — which any federal agency can tap to buy satellite voice, video and data service — offer agencies technology services that are not available on GSA's FTS 2001 contract, the government's primary long-distance telecom contract, which Sprint and MCI WorldCom hold. The contracts should present improved access to distance-learning services, said April Ramey, director of GSA's Innovation Center. Distance learning encompasses technologies that range from videoconferencing to interactive software that enable instructors to educate workers in another location.

Ramey said the new contracts emerged largely as a result of the needs of agencies that conduct distance learning — groups such as the Government Alliance for Training and Education (www. fgdla.org/gate.htm). "We wanted to provide a place or a vehicle for them to go," she said, because satellite communications are "not core services" of Sprint and MCI on the FTS 2001 contract.

Under FTS 2000 and the bridge contract to FTS 2001, AT&T — through subcontractor Spacenet Inc. — has been providing agencies with satellite connectivity for distance learning and other applications. On the new batch of GSA contracts, Spacenet reappears as a subcontractor to Electronic Data Systems Corp., one EDS insider s

Hughes Global Services' pact has the largest ceiling — $490 million. Other winners include COLSA Corp. ($150 million); Communications Satellite Corp. ($60 million); EDS ($250 million); John Tidrow & Associates Inc. ($50 million); Marshall Associates Inc. ($60 million); and Motorola Worldwide Information Network Services ($120 million).

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