GSA fetes FTS 2001 early birds

As the Dec. 6 deadline for the transition to the FTS 2001 telecommunications

contract approaches, the General Services Administration honored more than

half of the 165 federal customers for crossing the finish line early.

A ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Monday hailed 89 small agencies for

successfully switching their telecommunications circuits to those provided

by MCI WorldCom or Sprint.

Frank Lalley, assistant commissioner for service delivery in GSA's Federal

Technology Service, said the agencies also met loftier goals of the $1.5

billion contract, including:

* Creating more choices.

* Offering commercial services and negotiating lower prices for federal

users.

* Stimulating competition in the local and long-distance telecommunications

markets.

In general, agencies that have not completed the transition to FTS 2001

are still switching remote sites and very large data networks and hub sites,

Lalley said. A large frame-relay data network could take 90 to 120 days

to implement, while a voice network could be done in a matter of days, he

said. Some voice networks, such as toll-free call centers, are more complex,

he said.

Robert Bubniak, acting chief information officer of the Department of

Veterans Affairs and chairman of the Interagency Management Council for

FTS 2001, stressed the complexity of switching long-distance voice and network

service providers.

"They didn't just move over like-for-like services," Bubniak said. Agencies

evaluated the technical options and contract options, then picked a contractor

and worked in partnership with the contractor to find the best route to

transition, he said.

"The hallmark of the entire transition effort to date has been the teaming,"

he said.

FTS 2001 is different from its predecessor, FTS 2000, Lalley said, because

it offers the agencies choices about what services and what providers they

want to use.

GSA already is looking to the future of FTS 2001. In the next couple

of weeks, GSA will create a plan for crossing local telecommunications contracts

from the Metropolitan Area Acquisition program with FTS 2001, said Sandra

Bates, GSA's FTS commissioner. In some cases, agencies may be able to use

their long-distance provider for local services.

"We're confident there are companies that can do both," Bates said.

As a result, Bates expects to have multiple and overlapping contracts that

will not require a huge transition like FTS 2001, she said. Agencies will

transition services only when they need to.

GSA also is exploring the best ways to offer emerging technologies and

merge IT and networking, which have traditionally been separate businesses.

John Johnson, who was recently appointed FTS assistant commissioner for

service development, will lead that effort.

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