AT&T takes FTS 2001 case to GAO

AT&T, a losing bidder on the government's primary long-distance telecommunications contracts more than two years ago, has taken its protest against the FTS 2001 pacts to a new venue.

AT&T originally filed its protest with the General Services Administration, the contracting agency, but now has withdrawn from the appeals process to make its case with the General Accounting Office.

The company refiled the protest with GAO last week "primarily because we wanted to get it into a more formal process," said Wayne Jackson, AT&T's director of public relations.

In its protest, AT&T alleges that GSA relaxed FTS 2001 specifications during the transition from FTS 2000, such as the time it allowed for the transition to the new telecom contract, the quality of services and the collection of data for a transition information database. The requirements were changed "in a manner that materially changes the nature and purpose of the FTS 2001 contracts and thereby invalidates their award," according to the protest.

GSA's Federal Technology Service awarded the contracts to Sprint and WorldCom Inc. in December 1998 and January 1999, respectively. Agencies were to transition from the previous FTS 2000 contract, held by AT&T and Sprint, by Dec. 6, 2000. But GSA now expects agencies to complete their transitions by the end of this fiscal year.

AT&T filed the original protest with GSA in response to findings in a GAO report released at an April 26 hearing of the House Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the subcommittee, requested the report following multiple delays in GSA, Sprint and WorldCom's efforts to transition agencies to the new contract.

GAO officials told Davis that the delays cost agencies an extra $74 million in long-distance costs. However, GSA considers the acquisition strategy "as sound today as it was when we were here discussing it in 1997," testified Sandra Bates, commissioner of FTS, at the hearing.

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