Telecom firms air Networx views

As the new Networx telecommunications contract takes shape, government and industry officials want a better handle on factors such as guaranteed revenue minimums and billing practices.

Officials from potential contractors met this morning with leaders of the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service, which oversees Networx. The meeting was hosted by the Industry Advisory Council's Telecommunications Shared Interest Group.

Industry leaders have differing views on areas that the new contract will have to cover. At today's meeting, for example, some industry representatives argued for only small guaranteed revenue amounts or none at all, while others sought more substantial minimums.

Some industry leaders said the guarantees are needed to convince companies that there's enough money to be made to make bidding worthwhile. Others said that if only a few companies are guaranteed a certain level of revenue, agencies are essentially locked into using those firms until the minimums are met.

FTS 2001, which Networx will succeed, guaranteed MCI (then called WorldCom) and Sprint, its two original awardees, $750 million each.

Some industry leaders took issue with FTS' plan to split Networx into two parts. Networx Universal would cover nationwide services, while Networx Select would be for localized offerings, often from smaller companies. Some said the division would give a needed boost to small businesses, while others feared Universal would overshadow Select. Some officials also wondered whether Networx would feature a "crossover" provision similar to that of FTS 2001, which would allow vendors on Select contract to cross over to Universal.

John Johnson, FTS' assistant commissioner for service development and acting assistant commissioner for service delivery, said that it will be impossible for FTS to please everyone in the business community. His emphasis is on meeting the needs of the agencies that will use the contract vehicle, he said.

By policy, IAC meetings are considered off the record. The business leaders Federal Computer Week spoke to declined to comment on the record.

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