Telecom crossover rules available

Crossover site

The General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service has released its instructions for how local telecommunications contractors can modify their existing contracts to offer long-distance services.

The crossover process started with the local Metropolitan Area Acquisition contracts earlier this year, allowing a vendor in one city to offer services in another city where GSA already awarded a contract.

The new instructions, released late on Aug. 17, expand that option to local vendors wanting to get onto GSA's $1.5 billion long-distance FTS 2001 contract. An introductory overview indicates that the instructions closely follow the original solicitation for FTS 2001, making changes mainly to minimize the required time and effort it will take for vendors and GSA to negotiate contract modifications.

The biggest immediate change is to allow new contractors the option of offering the same services as are already available or enhanced services based on new commercial offerings. New contracts are also not required to provide national coverage, although "the government encourages the geographic coverage be as broad as possible," according to the solicitation.

Right now, agencies have a choice between the original FTS 2001 vendors — Sprint and WorldCom Inc. Another nationwide provider, AT&T, which held a contract under FTS 2000, has been waiting to move onto FTS 2001. Regional providers, such as Qwest Communications International Inc. and Verizon Communications, also have expressed interest.

As incumbents, officials at Sprint and WorldCom have voiced their concern that new contractors would not be held to the same stringent requirements that their companies had to follow under the original solicitation. The concerns included a request for GSA to ensure that new contractors did not just focus on the most profitable areas of the federal market when the incumbents had to offer nationwide service.

Hopefuls, including AT&T and Qwest, are concerned that the minimum revenue guarantees negotiated with the incumbents would force agencies to look primarily to Sprint and WorldCom for services.

Congress has criticized the FTS 2001 program for failing to deliver on its service improvement promises and for delays in moving agencies from the FTS 2000 contract. Those delays have cost agencies more than $74 million, according to the General Accounting Office.

Another GAO audit that should be finished later this year has turned up significant problems with the MAA contracts as well. This includes the fact that, because of undisclosed management fees, agencies are unable to determine whether the rates they receive are actually the best value available.

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