FTS to allow bundled service

Agencies soon will be able to buy local and long-distance telecommunications services bundled together, using the FTS 2001 contract vehicle.

The General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service (FTS) is developing a contract modification that would allow some sellers to package their offerings together, said John Johnson, assistant commissioner of service development and acting assistant commissioner of service delivery at FTS.

The change foreshadows the successor to FTS 2001, which will be called Networx and will be awarded sometime before FTS 2001 expires in 2006. In Networx, Metropolitan Area Acquisition (MAA) contracts, which carriers use to sell local and regional services, are likely to be folded into FTS 2001, which governs governmentwide long-distance services.

In allowing the bundling sooner, Johnson said, FTS is mirroring changes in the consumer world and responding to customer demands. Under the current structure, MAA holders can move some offerings to FTS 2001 using a provision called cross-over, but they have to market local and long-distance offerings separately.

"I think it would be a step in the right direction" to allow bundling sooner, Johnson said in an interview with Federal Computer Week. "It simplifies how services are purchased. We thankfully have a contract vehicle that is flexible."

Meanwhile, work continues on Networx, Johnson said. During the next few weeks, he plans to meet with agencies to discuss details of the draft that was completed earlier this year.

The telecom world has changed tremendously since the MAA contracts and FTS 2001 were awarded in the 1990s. Voice and data services are converging ever more closely, security has become a ubiquitous requirement, and regulations designed to make the landscape competitive are always in flux.

The convergence of voice and data is an area FTS has to consider carefully and look ahead in to make Networx truly useful, Johnson said. "That's going to present to us a whole new operating paradigm," he said.

Just as the electric company doesn't issue separate bills for lights, appliances and TV, FTS should unify voice and data to reflect technological advances, he said.

Another consideration is whether other contract vehicles should become part of Networx. For example, the Federal Wireless Telecommunications Service Contract expires at the end of 2004, and Johnson initially planned to move its functions to Networx. He is reconsidering because it expires well before the other contracts that Networx will replace.

"The question is what meets the needs of customers," he said.

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