A visible search for high-volume traffic

Small firm seeks federal business for high-speed Internet on-ramp

A small business trying to market its wares to the government might feel compelled to shout it from the rooftops.

GovDSL, a division of Global Analytic Information Technology Services Inc., will do just that. In the coming months, the company, based in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., plans to erect a sign proclaiming "govDSL.com" on the top of a Springfield, Va., tower rising above the interchange where Interstates 95, 495 and 395 converge.

GAITS, an 8(a) small business, hopes the big sign will catch the attention of government commuters and tele-commuters who live around the Washington Beltway. In late December, the company was among 10 small businesses awarded a five-year, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract by the General Services Administration for nationwide Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) services, which provide high-speed Internet access via existing phone lines.

Rather than market DSL through GAITS, which is involved in other information technology services, such as e-mail, consulting and wireless services, GAITS officials created govDSL as an independent division.

The big sign is an early indication of the type of business the 40-person firm expects, company officials said.

Thomas Asefi, chief information officer and senior consulting engineer at GAITS, estimates that each federal agency has 2,000 to 3,000 remote sites that can be served by DSL. GAITS plans to spend $50,000 in the next two months to market its DSL offerings to the government.

"We want mass buys," Asefi said. "We want to be the Yahoo of the market for govDSL. Our goal for next year is to have up to 10,000 circuits installed in the federal government."

Despite the big sales push, Joe Ruelas, director of federal sales at GAITS, said the company markets its expertise. "We're not salesmen. We're engineers," he said. "We go home at night and play on our computers."

In the next few weeks, govDSL will meet with the federal CIO Council to talk about DSL services. The company will provide DSL connectivity nationwide through its partnerships with Covad Communications Corp., NorthPoint Communications, Rhythms NetConnections Inc., Pacific Bell Network and others.

"GovDSL works hand-in-hand with what we do. Connectivity is our business," Ruelas said. "To bring this to the federal government just makes sense."

Sound ambitious? You bet.

That's what it takes for small players to get involved in big deals, said Linda Glasgow, managing director at KPMG Consulting, which is GAITS' mentor under the Small Business Administration's 8(a) Mentor-Protege Program, in which large companies give guidance to small businesses trying to crack the market.

"I was looking for a company that had a focus, that knows where [it wants] to go, and one that really had a lot of enthusiasm," Glasgow said. "I can tell you there's never a lack of enthusiasm at GAITS."

KPMG also looks for companies with a real interest in their clients, she said. KPMG has brought GAITS and two other companies it mentors, MP Computer Consultants Inc. and Advanced Systems Inc., onto the National Institutes of Health's CIO-SP 2 contract, a governmentwide IT services pact.

GAITS has found success through partnering. It also is working as a subcontractor to Pragmatics Inc. on the Defense Information Systems Agency's "I Assure" contract.

Although Pragmatics is relying on big prime contractors such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Anteon Inc., it also is working with a couple of young, innovative companies such as GAITS, said Harry Lumpkin, vice president of Pragmatics, a software engineering and development firm that specializes in information assurance. Pragmatics is a graduate of SBA's 8(a) Mentor-Protege Program.

"What [GAITS engineers] are really good at is taking the recommendations of the academics into the reality of today to solve problems," Lumpkin said. GAITS has the potential to outgrow the 8(a) program quickly, he said.

In addition to GAITS garnering the GSA contract for DSL, in January it launched FedSuperMall.com, an online buying site that meets government requirements for 8(a) buying. GSA's Federal Technology Service also hosts its own SmallBizMall.gov, which gives 8(a) contract-holders more exposure.

Asefi and Ruelas try not to dwell on their company's 8(a) status, which was obtained in November 1999. "Our No. 1 thing is customer service. The 8(a) is a bonus," Asefi said. GovDSL has hired 10 high-end DSL engineers to work directly with federal agencies, he said.

Still, the size of the company could be a factor.

DSL is becoming a more important technology for agencies looking to improve the efficiency of workers outside the main offices, but it is still a tough market for a small business to capture within, said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc., a consulting firm specializing in the federal technology market.

"These small companies — the problem is that they don't have substantial federal sales forces. They're not known entities. The business is not going to come to them," Suss said. "Their success is going to hinge on their ability to get the agencies interested, to convince them that they need a national service."

Agencies need to see why they should use the GSA contract, which uses second- and third-tier service providers, rather than buying directly from the providers, Suss said.

"GSA Federal Technology Service and the regional offices as well as the primes have a lot of work ahead of them to turn this contract into something that is going to be widely used," Suss said.

The pitch for Digital Subscriber Line

Digital Subscriber Line technology runs between the end user's location and the telephone switching station — not between switching stations. Although DSL runs over the existing copper lines that agencies now rely on, it will give users faster transmission speeds, transmitting data at speeds up to 7 megabits/ sec, compared with the 56 kilobits/sec of most modems.

DSL turns a single telephone line into two lines, with frequencies below 4 KHz reserved for voice and frequencies above that reserved for data. This enables users to access the Internet and transmit data even while they use the telephone for voice communications.

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