FTS changes Networx

Federal Technology Service officials have made several significant changes to their plan for Networx, the sweeping telecommunications contract vehicle that will be awarded to vendors in 2006.

FTS officials outlined the changes today at an industry meeting sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council. Among the major moves:

* Although FTS officials still plan to split the Networx program into two separate contracts — Universal for nationwide services and Enterprise (previously called Select) for more localized, or niche, offerings — they now plan to award both contracts at the same time, in April 2006. Previously, they had planned to award the vehicles nine months apart, sparking fears among some smaller telecom firms that the big players would lock up all the business before the smaller ones could bid.

* Officials decided, against the arguments of some contractors, that companies will have to provide services nationwide to qualify for inclusion on the Universal contract. But officials changed a key term in the requirement: Instead of having to offer all services in all locations, companies now will qualify if they can provide any government customer with the same services the customer already gets. In contract language, the requirement has changed from "ubiquity" to "continuity."

The draft requests for proposals for each contract will be published Nov. 1, said Karl Krumbholz, FTS' deputy assistant commissioner for service development. They will specify 39 required services and 10 optional services for vendors bidding on Universal, and nine required services and 42 optional ones for Enterprise bidders, said Fred Schobert, FTS' director of program management and technology.

FTS is an arm of the General Services Administration.

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