Georgia rebids telecom contract

Georgia, which had just begun evaluating bids for its groundbreaking telecom outsourcing project, has decided to rebid the 10-year contract following reports of deepening troubles at WorldCom Inc., which headed one of the two groups chosen as finalists.

The Converged Communications Outsourcing Project (CCOP) will put all of the state's telecom services under one contract. It will fill the government's needs for local, long-distance and wireless phone services as well as high-speed online access, video, two-way radio, local-area networks and PC equipment and support.

The first request for proposals (RFPs) also called for installation of a new data center, which would have been bought and taken over by the state at the signing of the final contract. The vendor would also have been responsible for converting the Georgia Public Broadcasting's infrastructure to allow for digital broadcasts and installing a highway camera system.

With the growing problems at WorldCom, which is accused of accounting irregularities and is under increasing financial pressure, state officials decided to rebid the contract because it was obvious there was no longer a competitive process in place, said Joyce Goldberg, a spokesperson for the Georgia Technology Authority (www.gagta.com).

At the same time, state officials decided to drop the requirements for the data center, digital broadcast conversion and the highway camera system.

"They are not really a part of what we are trying to do with communications overall, and they are not a part of the main mission of the telecom companies who bid," she said. "But the [$18 million] bonds for the data center funding have already been released and now we'll be able to get it done faster as a separate item, which we need to do because our current data center is very deteriorated."

The Federal Communications Commission also is calling for broadcasters to convert to digital at a quicker pace, she said, and the state will have more flexibility to do that under a separate contract.

The new RFP is to be published in early August, with the contract award to be made in April. The original schedule called for a contract to be signed in December. However, the original target of July 1, 2003, as the contract's effective date has been retained.

"Because we pre-qualified companies and the concept has been known for a year or more, we think the vendors have been following the process closely enough and won't need that much more time to adjust," Goldberg said. "Plus, we have become more savvy with the evaluations and have a pretty good idea already of what the final contract should look like."

Bill Ritz, a spokesperson for EDS, a member of the other finalist group bidding as Connect Georgia, said his company will be analyzing the latest Georgia proposal but is "very confident" of the solution put forward under the previous RFP.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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