FTS 2001 competitors briefed

Telecommunications providers wanting to join Sprint and WorldCom Inc. as FTS 2001 long-distance contract-holders must demonstrate that their offerings would be in the government's "best interest," according to a General Services Administration presentation June 28.

"Best interest" evaluations might include how much a company's offer will increase competition and reduce prices, whether it will result in capturing new business from agencies and how well it will be managed, GSA Federal Technology Service officials explained to members of the Industry Advisory Council's (IAC) telecom shared-interest group.

The meeting was intended to "give some guidance on how to compete in the crossover environment," said John Johnson, assistant commissioner for GSA's Office of Service Development.

Crossover is GSA's way of referring to the process of enabling companies holding either an FTS 2001 long-distance contract or one of the 28 Metropolitan Area Acquisition local service contracts to compete on another contract.

In order for a company to join FTS 2001, it must already hold an MAA contract and be compliant with FTS 2001 crossover technical and management requirements, according to GSA officials. In addition, crossover proposals must include an enhanced or emerging service or at least one of the 10 original FTS 2001 services, such as switched voice, frame relay and videoconferencing. The company must also meet FTS 2001 program requirements and use its pricing structures.

The IAC interest group will submit questions and recommendations for GSA to review on July 16, followed by another meeting with industry in early August. GSA aims to issue its final crossover guidance, to be posted on the World Wide Web, Aug. 17.

Because crossover proposals will vary, GSA's FTS can't be sure how long it will take to evaluate them. Therefore, it hasn't made a target award date, officials said.

Johnson said that the opening of FTS 2001 to more competition follows principles jointly developed by Congress, industry, agencies and GSA in 1997.

"We're excited at the opportunity to bring greater value and choice to our customers," he said.

AT&T — which held an FTS 2000 contract — and Qwest Communications have pushed for opening FTS 2001 up for more competition. Earlier this month, the General Accounting Office dismissed a protest filed by AT&T that called for GSA to recompete FTS 2001. GAO said the protest was not filed in time and that it did not fall under GAO's jurisdiction.

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