Rival agencies take on GSA in federal telecom business

GSA's Sandra Bates: GSA is adding services.

The Federal Technology Service's FTS 2001 long-haul and Metropolitan Area Acquisition local-service programs face stiff competition from a new source: other agencies.

The Interior Department's GovWorks Federal Acquisition Center is going head-to-head with the General Services Administration's programs, undercutting the FTS service fees by at least half, said David Sutfin, chief of the GovWorks procurement. He called the FTS programs 'broken.'

Hollace Twining, head of IT operations at the Transportation Department's Transportation Administrative Service Center, said TASC also is competing with FTS. The center does about $60 million worth of business a year, he said, much of it in departmental telecom.

Twining said there would be more telecom opportunities in a new headquarters campus, now being designed.

Meanwhile, FTS commissioner Sandra Bates said at the recent Federal Telecommunications Conference in Reston, Va., that her agency's new Connections contract will complement the GSA schedule contracts. TeleStrategies Inc. of McLean, Va., sponsored the conference.

Connections will offer a range of voice, video and data services, including consulting, systems integration and operations support, she said. The program will cover everything from the point where the local exchange carrier's lines enter an agency's premises.

New kid on the block

FTS' network services programs generated about $2 billion in revenue last year, and FTS holds about 60 percent of the federal long-distance market. But Bates' agency has been criticized for poor service and high fees combined with the telecom rates it charges agencies.

Sutfin said he sees an opportunity to steal some FTS thunder.

GovWorks, a fee-for-service franchise, will charge an average of 3 percent, Sutfin said. He said he will offer lower prices and integrated off-the-shelf services in open-ended solicitations for unmodified commercial offerings.

According to a GCN survey of federal IT managers, 40 percent do not use the FTS 2001 contracts and are open to other options. Seventeen percent said they see a need for offerings outside of GSA, and 23 percent were unsure about the need.

That's enough of a potential market to attract carriers, said Anthony D'Agata, vice president and general manager of Sprint Corp.'s government systems division.

'It behooves us to go after something like GovWorks,' D'Agata said. Sprint, with WorldCom Inc., is an FTS 2001 contractor.

'We certainly have a bias toward FTS,' D'Agata said. 'We think it is a diverse contract with varied capabilities and the best prices in the industry. It's the Cadillac of contract vehicles, but not everyone may want a Cadillac.'

Customers prefer commercial billing services and direct monitoring of carrier performance, he said.

But FTS officials seem unconcerned about GovWorks.

GSA spokesman Bill Bearden said, 'We feel confident we are adding value at extremely competitive prices.'

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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