With GSA authorizing the first carrier under its $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract to provide service, and with others set to quickly follow, summer could be a busy time for federal telecom contracting.
The time appears ripe for agencies looking to tap into the General Services Administration's $50 billion next-generation telecommunications contract, with the first official approvals for carriers to provide services under the contract now being issued.
GSA granted the first Authority to Operate under the 15-year Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions to CenturyLink on March 11. That ATO will be followed quickly by others, as Verizon and AT&T are very close to getting theirs. Mid-range EIS awardees, such as MetTel, expect to get their ATOs in the coming few weeks too.
Federal agencies aren't going to wait for all nine EIS contractors to get ATOs from the GSA to award service contracts, according to Bob Woods, president of Topside Consulting Group and former commissioner of GSA's Federal Technology Service. They can award contracts to carriers without ATOs, while the approval process is ongoing.
"A number of agencies have not released task orders yet," one EIS contractor told FCW. "It's not about pent-up demand. Perhaps agencies are waiting for ATOs before making awards," the contractor said.
Dave Young, senior vice president of CenturyLink's strategic government group, expects a busy summer when it comes to EIS contract work. Young told FCW that CenturyLink expects agencies to begin awarding contracts to ATO holders soon.
CenturyLink has seen less than a dozen agency EIS task order so far, Young said. He said he expects more in the coming months.
"ATOs give agencies the ability to award and begin their actual transition" to more modern telecommunications services, Young said.
The authorizations show that EIS "on track" at GSA, procurement expert Larry Allen said. That wasn't necessarily the case last year. In December, the agency extended its EIS transition deadline three years to 2023 as federal agencies were slow to issue initial solicitations for the contract.
Agencies such as the Social Security Administration, NASA, the Department of Justice and the IRS had all issued task orders last year. EIS providers responded to those task orders, and those agencies are most likely in the final stages of evaluating many of them, said one carrier official.
Woods agreed the authorizations show the contract is on schedule and providing agencies with more security about moving ahead themselves. Federal agencies, he said, can be uncomfortable with being ahead of everyone else.
With the three largest EIS contractors and some of the smaller providers set to provide services in the coming months, Woods said, "it could open the floodgates" for agencies that might have been initially hesitant shifting to EIS.
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